Sharks re-sign Braswell and nab Natanahira

STANDOUT: Kevin Braswell drives past the Hawks' Jarrod Kenny on his way to 36 points.
STANDOUT: Kevin Braswell drives past the Hawks' Jarrod Kenny on his way to 36 points.

Paul Henare has made his first move as Southland Sharks' coach, re-signing American point guard Kevin Braswell and snapping up Hawke's Bay Hawks power forward Morgan Natanahira.

Braswell, 33, will return for his third season in the Sharks' colours, after appearing in 22 games during the 2011 and 2012 campaigns. He is playing for the Melbourne Tigers in the Australian National Basketball League (ANBL) and will join up with the Sharks once his playing commitments there are over.

Natanahira, 21, has played for the Hawks for the past two seasons and follows his former coach, Henare, down south.

The 1.98m Natanahira represented the Junior Tall Blacks for three years and is a development player with the New Zealand Breakers.

He is recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery and is expected to be back on the court by January.

Natanahira grew up in Queenstown and attended Otago Boys' High School, where he played alongside Sharks' guard Paratene McLeod. He has relatives in Invercargill, which he said was another drawcard in his move.

Both Braswell and Natanahira have signed two year deals with the Sharks. Henare was delighted to capture their signatures and believed they would be valuable contributors to the Sharks next season.

"Kevin is familiar with the area, the franchise, and how things are done down here. He was always going to be a natural fit to stay on," Henare said.

"I've known Morgan for a few years. In the two seasons I've had coaching him, he's made a really good progression with regard to his game and his confidence. He's an exciting prospect.

"I definitely think the best is yet to come. He's not going to hit his peak for a few years yet."

Natanahira has made strong strides with his basketball in recent years and Henare said he was a player, with a bright future.

"Not many Kiwi people have his energy and level of athleticism. He's an outstanding athlete.

"He can run, he can jump, and he crashes the boards really well."

Braswell has endured a long wait in his bid to obtain New Zealand citizenship. If the Baltimore native can get it, he would be able to play in the New Zealand league as a Kiwi player, which would mean the Sharks could sign two American imports.

Henare said Braswell's signing was not dependent on him gaining residency.

"He's a proven competitor in this part of the world," Henare said of his former New Zealand Breakers team-mate. "Import or not, he's a great signing for the team and the organisation.

"He can become more efficient in the New Zealand NBL, with a bit more support around him."

Braswell averaged a team-high 20.6 points and 5.1 assists per game with the Sharks this season.

Henare has been carrying out scrimmages with the Southland-based members of the Zero Fees- sponsored Sharks since arriving in Invercargill, as he seeks to gauge the level of talent in the region. The team will have two sessions a week in the lead-up to Christmas. Homegrown Sharks, James Paringatai, Dan Peck, McLeod, Andrew Wheeler, Rhys Smolenski and Mitchell Newton have indicated a willingness to be involved with the franchise next season.

Next year's New Zealand NBL is expected to start in April.

The Southland Times