Sharks buoyed after as Leon Henry re-signs

HITMAN: Leon Henry is attracting interest from ANBL clubs along with import Brian Conklin.
HITMAN: Leon Henry is attracting interest from ANBL clubs along with import Brian Conklin.

Arguably the most important cog in the Southland Sharks 2013 National Basketball League championship-winning wheel will be back to attempt a title defence in 2014.

The Southland Sharks confirmed yesterday they had secured the services of the 2.02m 28-year-old small forward, who was the MVP during this year's New Zealand National Basketball League finals series.

He averaged 16 points and seven rebounds a game in 2013, and his shooting average of 52.6 per cent put him among the league's best.

Henry was a late addition to last season's Sharks setup after a change of mind about playing in the New Zealand league.

He was originally contracted to the Otago Nuggets for the 2013 season but had to pull out of his contract under advice he would need to take time out to nurse an injury after a season with the Breakers.

However, it emerged that he could play and, with the Nuggets roster full, Henry was released to look at other options.

The Sharks at the time had thought their recruiting was finished but when Henry become available he had discussions with Southland coach and Henry's former Breakers team-mate Paul Henare.

The Sharks board then made adjustments to their budget to ensure they could accommodate Henry in what turned out to be a masterstroke. Henry fast became important in helping move the organisation forward and it was little surprise Sharks general manager was delighted yesterday to be able to confirm they had again got his signature.

"It's great to have Leon back on board. He's a great player and a top ambassador for the sport both on and off the court. He played a huge role for us in the title win this year."

In May Henry was cut from the final year of his contract with the Breakers as the New Zealand ANBL franchise struggled to keep him under the ANBL points capping system, and his spot instead went to Sharks team-mate Reuben Te Rangi.

Instead of joining another ANBL team he has been in the United States touring with his musician partner Aaradhna.

Bolger expected he would return fresh after a break following four seasons of back-to-back Australian NBL and Kiwi NBL

Henry's signing joins Reuben Te Rangi and Kevin Braswell who have all ready confirmed they will return.

Bolger was pleased players were keen to return on the back of this year's success. It seems the opportunity to play in the rebuilt Stadium Southland was also proving attractive.

She hoped to have some other signing announcements in the next month.

"We have a few contractual offers out at the moment to other players," Bolger said.

"We hope to have them signed up before Christmas."

Meanwhile, with the introduction of the Canterbury Rams to the league, the Sharks will play nine home games at Stadium Southland in 2014 as opposed to the eight this year.

Season tickets go on sale on December 9 to current season ticket-holders, and to the public from December 14.

The Southland Times