Leon Henry says he prayed to the "man upstairs" that the New Zealand Breakers would find room for him in their squad shooting for a three-peat of ANBL titles.
Those prayers were answered yesterday as the two-metre forward was inked to a new two-year deal – the seventh player from the title-winning squad to be retained.
Henry joins Alex Pledger, Tom Abercrombie, Dillon Boucher, Daryl Corletto, CJ Bruton and Mika Vukona as returning Breakers, with just the two import spots and one more local position – most probably another guard – to be filled.
The 26-year-old admitted to a few anxieties over whether the club could squeeze him back in.
"There were definitely some nerves," he said yesterday before his final New Zealand NBL outing for the Otago Nuggets. "Pretty much going through playoff time, once we had the core of the group already re-signed for the following year it did create a few concerns.
"I prayed to the man upstairs man, hoping I'd be in that mix as well. I'm just happy that I'm wanted by the Breakers again."
Henry impressed during his first full season for the Breakers, playing limited minutes in relief of small forward Thomas Abercrombie and providing a handy mix of energy, slashing and the ability to hit the open three.
But the talented athlete admitted his surprise promotion to starting duty in game one of the grand final against the Perth Wildcats had proven challenging.
"Finding out at shootaround before the first game I was starting, it did catch me off guard. The whole season I'd mentally prepared myself to come off the bench and bring that energy. Stepping into that starting spot I found it tough to get any rhythm."
But Henry said the season had been a great learning experience and he was confident he would continue to improve.
"Jumping from the New Zealand league to the ANBL was a huge leap, and I feel I still have a lot more to prove to everyone. These two years I'm going to be focused on getting better and helping out the team any way I can."
The Aucklander revealed that may see a slight change in role for 2012-13, with a possibility he could provide some cover at power forward where he has the length to provide spot minutes. "I'm up for whatever challenge the coaches want to provide me," he added.
Henry confirmed he would be pushing for a spot in the Tall Blacks for the Olympic qualifying tournament in July.
"Yeah man, I've still got plenty of juice in the tank."
- © Fairfax NZ News