No more watching from the sidelines for Taranaki Mountain Airs' Daniel Gomis
A scar on his left hand was not the kind of souvenir Daniel Gomis had planned on taking home from his time in New Zealand.
Signing on with the Taranaki Mountain Airs for the 2017 National Basketball League (NBL) season, the Senegalese big man was ready to see a beautiful part of the world and anchor a team looking to defend their title as the best defenders in the league.
After a torn rotator cuff, broken nose, broken leg, broken hand and a stress fracture in his shin derailed much of his US collegiate career at Oregon State University, the 25-year-old was set up to be a force for the Mountain Airs.
And that's exactly what he was - for four games.
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Through four games of the NBL season, Gomis was showing why Augusta Mountain Airs coach Trent Adam wanted him in his squad as he was among the leaders in blocks and rebounds per game.
So, you couldn't blame the import centre for being irate when his hand was broken after getting caught in Super City Rangers big man Nnanna Egwu's jersey during their second round match in Auckland.
"It happened so quick. Right when it happened, too, I knew it was pretty serious," Gomis says.
He was right. The 208cm paint protector went under the knife when the team returned to New Plymouth following the match and had to sit out seven matches.
Up to that early point in the season, the Taranaki side boasted a 3-1 record and were holding teams to just 79 points per game - which was the second-best in the league.
However, with Gomis down the Mountain Airs defence struggled and allowed opponents to score an average of over 95 points per game through eight straight loses.
"The team started out so great - everything was clicking - but unfortunately it happened. But, you know, that's life. Sometimes I'm like 'man, am I doing too much?' because it could have been avoided.
"It's always frustrating to watch from the sidelines. These guys work so hard, the results should be better than what they are right now.
"I was trying to do my best sitting on the bench to communicate and bring my piece to it, but it was really tough sitting on the bench watching the guys you go into battle with struggling a little bit."
The big man returned to the court in the team's loss to Wellington last week and admits he was a little to excited to be back - fouling out in just over nine minutes.
"Nine and a half minutes. That's got to be some sort of record," he grins.
"The adrenaline was running too high. I was too happy to be out there. It happened to me in college too when I came back from a broken hand. I came in and had three fouls in like two or three minutes.
"It's just the excitement of being out there, but you have to use your brain sometimes and let the game come to you, not try to rush anything."
While watching the team fall in eight straight games and not being able to do anything might have been disheartening for some, Gomis remained positive, not letting his situation get him down as he eyed his return to the floor.
"At the end of the day I just got to go out there, show some energy and play hard every time. It is what it is."
While Gomis is back and ready to block, team workhorses Houston O'Riley and Aaron Bailey-Nowell were nursing injuries during the week but are expected to play.
However, they were expected to take the court this Sunday as the Mountain Airs host the Wellington Saints.
At a glance
Taranaki Mountain Airs v Wellington Saints. Sunday May 21, TSB Stadium, New Plymouth. 3pm tip-off.