Future looks bright for Tall Blacks - Boucher
New Zealand basketball legend Dillon Boucher believes the Tall Blacks could be headed for a golden age at international level in the coming years.
Boucher was a member of the Tall Blacks' team that stunned the world and finished fourth at the 2002 world championships in Indianapolis, putting New Zealand basketball on the map.
Basketball has gone from strength to strength during the past decade, with the Tall Blacks punching above their weight internationally and the Auckland-based Breakers winning back-to-back Australian National Basketball League titles last week in front of sellout crowds.
The Tall Blacks have boasted a talented guardline in recent years, with the likes of Kirk Penney, Phill Jones, Mark Dickel, Paul Henare, Paora Winitana and Lindsay Tait, but have suffered from a lack of size up front.
That could be about to change, though, with an outstanding crop of big men beginning to make their mark, including Alex Pledger, Steve Adams, Rob Loe and Isaac Fotu.
Boucher said the future looked bright for the Tall Blacks if that group of players kept improving steadily and refine their games during the next couple of years.
"We've always been strong in the guard department, but now we have these legitimate big men, who can play," Boucher said.
"It's great to see genuine big men coming from this country and doing it at a high level.
"They're very young, but for the years to come, they're going to be at the forefront for the Tall Blacks.
"If we can combine that with continuing to produce guards, then you're going to see a very strong Tall Black lineup for the years to come."
Boucher will be in Invercargill tonight when his Auckland Pirates side takes on the Southland Sharks at the velodrome.
The 36-year-old veteran and Breakers' team-mate Pledger will be playing their first game of the New Zealand NBL season after winning the Australian championship last week.
Boucher said it was a special feeling to be a part of the first Kiwi-based side to win an Australian championship at senior level last April, but admitted winning a second successive title last week trumped that effort.
"Any time you go back to back with a championship, it's hard to do," he said.
"The fact we were able to do it, made it even more special.
"From the very get-go we believed we had a team on paper, who were capable of doing it.
"That belief, all the way through the season, was always there."
Boucher is in talks with the Breakers about returning to the side next season and is expected to put pen to paper within the next week.
Despite being in the twilight of his career, he still has a lot to offer both on and off the court with his leadership, experience, gritty determination and passion for winning.
"(Breakers' coach) Andrej (Lemanis) has indicated he wants me back," Boucher said.
"It's always a good sign when the coach wants you back. I'm pretty confident it's going to happen. I believe I've got a lot to offer the younger guys in the group and want to help nurture them through."
Boucher has played with Perth and Brisbane previously in the Australian NBL and said there were several factors that separated the Breakers from other teams in the league, and were pivotal to their success.
"The whole organisation has really built its foundation on some strong family values," Boucher said.
"It really starts with our ownership, of Paul and Liz Blackwell and flows down from them.
"I think the club has stuck by those values and has really flourished because of it.
"They show if you put the structures in place and add talent to that, you can get a championship formula."
HOW THEY LINE UP
Southland Sharks v Auckland Pirates: Velodrome, 7pm today
Southland Sharks: Larry Abney (c), Kevin Braswell, Dan Peck, Dion Prewster, Craig Bradshaw, James Paringatai, Jimmy Todd, Paratene McLeod, Ethan Rusbatch, Andrew Wheeler, Rhys Smolenski
Auckland Pirates: Lindsay Tait, Hayden Allen, Ron Dorsey, Isma'il Muhammad, Nick Barrow, Alex Pledger, Dillon Boucher, Daryl Cartwright, Brooke Ruscoe, Houston O'Riley
The Southland Times