Taranaki Mountain Airs forward Aaron Bailey-Nowell had a season to forget last year.
Dogged by injury, Bailey-Nowell struggled on court and, not long after the season finished, he had shoulder surgery.
Now fully fit, the 31-year-old is keen to put 2012 behind him and focus on the challenge ahead in this year's National Basketball League.
"Last year was disappointing. I probably shouldn't have played. I couldn't lift my arm above my shoulder and played in pain," he said yesterday.
"I had shoulder surgery after the season and it's come right. I just want to forget about 2012 and play again. I feel confident with my shoulder and I just want to do what I'm used to doing . . . getting in there under the basket, wrestling for the ball and working hard."
One role Bailey-Nowell won't have this season is the captaincy.
"Dave [coach David Bublitz] wants Jack [American Jack Leasure] as captain this year so I can concentrate on my game. It's no biggie. I was proud to be captain and this allows me to focus on my game."
Bublitz said it was important Bailey-Nowell was able to work on getting his form and fitness back.
"Doing the things he does well. Aaron leads in other ways. He works his butt off and he's an emotional leader on court," Bublitz said.
"I wanted to give Jack an opportunity to lead the team. In terms of court time, he plays more minutes than Aaron. And in the point guard role, he sees what's happening on court."
Bailey-Nowell said things were shaping up well for the side for Friday night's season opener against the Wellington Saints at the TSB Stadium in New Plymouth.
"We've got a good mix of talent. We've got experience and the new guys coming in bring enthusiasm," he said.
"Everyone's excited and they've been working their butts off. We've been working on our defence and that has to be our No 1 priority this week against the Saints."
Bailey-Nowell said he expected a tough night against the Saints.
"They're stacked with talent. They've recruited well over the off-season and I've heard Dillon [Breakers player Dillon Boucher] is available. They beat Nelson in the pre-season tourney and we found Nelson tough," he said.
"It's always a daunting game against the Saints and Friday will be no different."
Mountain Airs v Wellington Saints
Manawatu Jets v Bay Hawks
Southland Sharks v Super City Rangers
Nelson Giants v Manawatu Jets
Waikato Pistons v Wellington Saints
Otago Nuggets v Super City Rangers
Bay Hawks v Southland Sharks
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