Schoolboy Jack Salt gets NZ Breakers call-up
He's filled the void for the Tall Blacks, and 17-year-old Auckland schoolboy Jack Salt is comfortable about doing a similar job with the Breakers in their pre-season series against the Melbourne Tigers this week.
The Breakers confirmed before flying south to Christchurch today that usual starting centre Alex Pledger would miss at least tomorrow night's first game against the Tigers at what's expected to be a sold-out CBS Arena.
He might also have to sit out Thursday's second game at Wellington's TSB Arena, depending on how he responds to treatment.
And with backup big man Jeremiah Trueman also missing the first game of the short tour after recently becoming a father again, that's seen the 2.08 metre Salt plucked from Auckland's Westlake Boys High to beef up the Breakers front court.
"We have a couple of injuries and people will get opportunities to trial in different positions," Breakers coach Dean Vickerman said today. "We have Jack for the first game in Christchurch, Pledger is unlikely to play game one and is a chance only to play in Wellington. Jeremiah has just become a dad again so he too will not play in Christchurch but he is likely to line up in game two."
An unscheduled couple of days away from school to further his hoops education is just fine by Salt who found himself in a similar position when he was a surprise callup for the Tall Blacks recently.
"I'm really excited," said Salt. "I got the callup because Alex and Jeremiah won't be there so I'm excited to get on court and hopefully play against the Melbourne Tigers.
"My experience with the Tall Blacks will help me I'm sure. Playing in that professional environment will still be a challenge but it will help me for sure. I am putting school aside for a couple of days but will be straight back into it; I've got tuition booked in for Thursday morning before school so all should be OK."
Salt is considered a potential star of the Kiwi game, though his participation for the Breakers in the regular season will be limited because of restrictions necessary if he wants to retain his US college eligibility.
The games in Christchurch and Wellington will be the first game situations for this reshaped group, including new imports Kerron Johnson and Darnell Lazare, to start finding their feet under Vickerman's regime.
The new head coach has been pleased with what he has seen in practice so far.
"I'm really happy with their work in the first week," Vickerman said. "Darnell has made the adjustment a little bit easier being older and having seen us before in the league. Kerron is a deep thinker and wants to understand our system and our players and then look to use his strengths within that group and progress week to week."
The second of the two games against the Tigers in Wellington on Thursday night will also count towards the NBL's Pre-Season Blitz tournament which will follow in Sydney next week.
To include as many games as practical in the tournament, teams are using key pre-season games to contribute points to the tournament to find an overall winner.