More players set to join Southland Sharks

BRENDON EGAN
Last updated 05:00 28/11/2012
Southland Sharks
Fairfax NZ
IN THE MIX: Hawke’s Bay’s Everard Bartlett, centre, could be a target for the Southland Sharks.

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Southland Sharks' basketball coach Paul Henare is confident of getting a couple of key signings across the line in the next few days.

The Sharks already have American point guard Kevin Braswell and former Junior Tall Black Morgan Natanahira on their books for next year and are close to finalising deals with two other players.

Henare was unwilling to reveal names until they were confirmed, but likely targets might include naturalised American Marcel Jones, Hawke's Bay guard Everard Bartlett, or Auckland forward Duane Bailey.

The franchise would dearly love to snap up a marquee signing such as Breakers' players Alex Pledger and Thomas Abercrombie, but luring them south would be difficult and costly. With the Breakers set for a tilt at a third consecutive Australian National Basketball League championship this season, those players would also be unavailable for the opening rounds of the New Zealand league.

The Sharks fought hard to try and land Breakers' combo guard Corey Webster, but he opted to sign with the Wellington Saints, who he won a title with in 2011.

"We were talking with Corey for quite a long time," Henare said yesterday. "At the end, he said he made a commitment to (Saints' owner) Nick Mills a while back, so I'm not sure if we were ever in the mix."

Southland were rumoured to be interested in Breakers' guard CJ Bruton, who is a former team-mate of Henare and Braswell. Henare poured cold water on those suggestions and said he had not spoken to the former Australian international.

In brighter news for the Sharks, Braswell, who was recently cut by the Melbourne Tigers in Australia, should be ready to hit the ground running for the start of the new season, which is expected to begin in early April.

Braswell averaged just 10 points and 5.2 assists in his five games with the Tigers, and was never able to play his best basketball because of an injury to his left knee, picked up during pre-season.

He would take some time out to allow his knee to recover fully and if he was unable to pick up another contract overseas, Henare said he would be able to arrive early for the Sharks' pre-season preparations.

"If he's not playing, we'd like to get him here as early as possible," he said. "At the same time, there's a long way to go until the season starts."

Henare is holding training sessions three times a week with a group of Southland-based players, who are interested in playing for the Sharks next season.

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They include James Paringatai, Dan Peck, Andrew Wheeler, Paratene McLeod and Rhys Smolenski, who were all in this year's squad, and some other young players.

The group will train up to Christmas, then increase their workload once they resume again early in the new year.

"It's been really good. The intensity has been there. Hopefully, the guys have been getting a lot out of it," Henare said.

"One of the things the guys will take away from their point of view, is the level of expectation I want them to be at. It gives them a good indication, where they need to be when we get back into it in January."

- The Southland Times

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