Plenty on the line for Canterbury Rams guard Ethan Rusbatch in NBL
Canterbury Rams co-captain Ethan Rusbatch is chasing much more than a National Basketball League (NBL) title this season.
Fresh off spending the last ANBL season as a development player with the New Zealand Breakers, Rusbatch is after a full-time contract with the Auckland-based side.
Rusbatch, who turns 25 next month, is too old to again snap up one of three development contracts on offer for the 2017-18 season.
"I think it's the next step out of [the NBL]. There's always Europe and stuff like that, but it would be good to hopefully get another look at the Breakers," Rusbatch said.
The Rams guard has had minimal contact with Breakers head coach Paul Henare since an exit meeting at the end of his time with the Breakers, but confirmed they were keeping an eye on him during the NBL.
After missing his team's opening two games with an ankle injury, Rusbatch is averaging 15.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game in the four games he's played for the 3-3 Rams.
He's also knocked down 46.8 per cent of his shots from the field, not that the 1.96m Christchurch-born player is content with his jump shot so far this season.
"I think I've got a lot more to show," Rusbatch said. "I haven't been shooting the ball very well . . . but I'm not really worried.
"I don't need to come out and score 20 or 30 plus to get a contract somewhere else. We've got guys like Jeremy [Kendle] and Marcel [Jones] who can really stack up the points."
Playing tight defence has been his priority so far this season, something he spent extra time working on while with the Breakers
If Rusbatch wasn't keyed on now Perth Wildcats guard Corey Webster, he was chasing Kirk Penny or Thomas Abercrombie around the hard-court.
"I think I grew maturity wise, I got a bit more mature just hanging around all those guys. I think it helped my game a lot," Rusbatch said.
While he didn't get on the court, Rusbatch also got a taste of international basketball after he was named in the Tall Blacks initial 14-man squad for the Rio Olympic qualifying campaign.
He missed the cut to 12 for games in Europe and the qualifiers in the Philippines, but later joined the group as injury cover for Webster.
"I had the opportunity to home if I wanted to," Rusbatch said. "But there was no way I was going to. I just wanted to go along for the ride and see what it was like. It would definitely be cool to get another shot at that."
But next up for Rusbatch is Friday night's NBL game against the Taranaki Mountain Airs, who share a 3-3 record with the Rams but are one spot below the Christchurch-based side in fifth.
Fresh off a second loss to the 6-6 Wellington Saints last weekend, the same side they play for a third time on Monday in Wellington, it shapes as an important game for Rusbatch and the Rams.
Rusbatch "wasn't happy" with the way the team played in the 114-104 loss to the Saints last Saturday and said there was ample of room for improvement on their home court on Good Friday.
AT A GLANCE
What: Canterbury Rams v Taranaki Mountain Airs
When: Friday, 7pm
Where: Cowles Stadium, Christchurch