Waikato Pistons back in the action

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 29/01/2013

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Basketball

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The Waikato Pistons will field a young, raw side in the 2013 National Basketball League.

However, the perennial title contenders will be seeking two imports to guide the rookies in the franchise's return to the national competition.

The Waikato Basketball Council chose not to enter a team in last year's NBL but are re-entering the league with a focus on local youth talent.

Former Pistons assistant coach Doug Courtney will take over the head coach role from NZ Breakers Dean Vickerman and is working on a lineup ahead of his side's opening match at home on April 20 against last season's runner-up Wellington Saints.

"The playing roster will be based around a core of exciting young talent drawing on the region's under-19 and under-23 representative teams," said WBC chairman Chad Hooker.

"The squad is being developed with an eye to the future following the retirement of a number of experienced, long-serving players such as Puke Lenden, Ray Cameron and Mike Homik. "We are also looking to secure the services of two import players to add experience both on and off court and help lead and develop the young talent we have."

Courtney is currently overseeing an extended training squad which is completing strength and conditioning work.

The squad includes 2011 Secondary Schools MVP Ana Haku, former Pistons guard Marco Alexander, ex-Auckland Pirate and New Zealand Universities representative Nick Burrow and University of Waikato Sir Edmund Hillary Scholar James Comer.

Hooker said there was also the potential to add a couple of young local players returning from stints with US colleges "to provide the nucleus of an exciting young team that we are looking to develop over the next two to three years."

The WBC has also secured nationwide financial advice provider AdviceFirst as naming rights sponsor for the Pistons.

"We're also keen to talk to other prospective commercial partners as we re-establish the Pistons in the NBL as this is a key to providing a basketball pathway for our players and help grow and promote the sport within the region," Hooker said.

A number of community coaching sessions will be programmed throughout the region during the year to promote the sport and help grow junior player numbers.

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