Southland Sharks ready to show some teeth

PLAYMAKER: Inaugural Southland Sharks’ captain Luke Martin will look to form a dangerous backcourt combination with American Kevin Braswell next season.
PLAYMAKER: Inaugural Southland Sharks’ captain Luke Martin will look to form a dangerous backcourt combination with American Kevin Braswell next season.

The Southland Sharks will look to pose problems for opposition defences next season by running two point guards in their backcourt.

Former Australian Boomer Luke Martin, who captained the Sharks in their inaugural campaign in 2010, was confirmed as the team's fifth signing on Sunday.

Martin is tipped to start alongside American import Kevin Braswell in the Sharks' backcourt next year and coach Paul Henare believed the pair would be difficult to guard against.

"I do plan on running those two a lot together (in the backcourt) next year," Henare said.

"I think they complement each other.

"You've got one real play-maker in Luke Martin and with Kevin Braswell's scoring ability, I quite like the mix."

Braswell can play both guard positions, but is better suited to the point guard role, where he can run the offence and get his team-mates involved.

Martin and Braswell are experienced basketballers, who have a sound knowledge of the New Zealand national league. Braswell will be in his third season with the Sharks, while Martin is an eight-year veteran of the New Zealand competition.

Both players are strong ball-handlers and are known for their sharp passing skills which Henare liked.

"You're going to find it tough to pressure us up the floor. We've got two legitimate ball handlers on the court," he said.

"I know what Luke can do and what his capabilities are. I've always been a big fan of Luke."

Martin, who qualifies as a New Zealand-based player in the league, due to his Kiwi father, averaged 11.2 points and 4.2 assists per game in his last stint with the Sharks.

The 31-year-old is playing for the Sydney Kings in the Australian National Basketball League and will link up with the Sharks once his commitments are finished.

Southland will be pleased to have nabbed Martin after missing out on securing Tall Blacks Corey Webster and Everard Bartlett.

The Sharks made a lucrative offer to Bartlett, but he knocked it back, to be closer to family in the Hawke's Bay.

Their attentions have now turned toward Tall Black and New Zealand Breakers' centre Alex Pledger, who is one of the biggest names remaining on the market.

Henare said the Sharks were extremely interested in the man, who is affectionately known as "The Chief", but acknowledged it would not be easy to bring him south.

"Someone like Alex Pledger would be a great acquisition down here . . . We're going to do everything we can to try and get him. I'm sure there's going to be nine other teams chasing him just as hard.

"The Breakers are managing his work-load in the off-season, so we've got to talk about those things."

The Zero Fees-sponsored Sharks would hold off signing their second import player until the new year, but are leaning toward adding a big man.

Southland has the core of their roster sorted for next season, with the other signings including Junior Tall Blacks captain Reuben Te Rangi, Morgan Natanahira and Gareth Dawson, who played 35 games for the Sharks between 2010 and 2011.

Southland-based players James Paringatai, Dan Peck and Paratene McLeod are expected to sign with the franchise later this month.

The Sharks' homegrown players will train through to December 21 and resume again on January 7.

The Southland Times