Breakers target rebounding for 36ers showdown

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:01 04/01/2014

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The Breakers have put a massive emphasis on rebounding as they take their undermanned and undersized lineup to Adelaide tonight to battle the second best side in the Australian NBL.

With starting centre Alex Pledger still out with an ankle injury that's expected to sideline him for at least another week, and 2.08m development player Jack Salt unable to travel because of league regulations that would compromise his college eligibility, the Breakers are once again severely lacking in the height department.

They found a way to get it done last Sunday in Sydney, prevailing 99-83 to snap a three-game losing skid despite getting pounded on the boards.

But against a bigger, more destructive Adelaide lineup, coach Dean Vickerman is acutely aware that his men are going to have to be much more competitive on the boards this week.

The 36ers start the impressive Daniel Johnson and Anthony Petrie in their frontline and bring former NBA big man Luke Schenscher - the tallest player in the ANBL - and Tall Black BJ Anthony off the bench. It's an imposing frontline that Adelaide make good use of.

"The first thing is you've got to beat them down the floor and not allow them to get deep post catches," said Vickerman. "If we can stop them establishing those early positions we can then get ourselves in good rebounding spots.

"They're going to crash the boards, and we've worked the last few days on just making your hits outside the keyway. You can't be a go-get-it rebounder against these guys, you've just got to make your hits and go get it after that."

The Breakers will also need in-form American big man Gary Wilkinson to continue his polished play after he exploded for 31 points last week against the Kings.

Wilkinson has to not only defend and rebound well, but he is a key scoring thrust for the Kiwi club with his ability to step out and hit the long jumper.

"The last few weeks he's been great," said Vickerman. "The last road trip he led us in scoring both games, and we had an interclub scrimmage over Christmas and he had 35 or 40 in that game. I wasn't totally surprised he came out and had a big one and accepted the challenge."

There was also a strong indication against the Kings that import point guard Kerron Johnson has settled into a good rhythm as he contributed a crucial 21 points. His ability to beat defenders off the dribble is vital for a Breakers lineup that needs to utilise its speed advantage.

"We tried putting CJ [Bruton] at the point and running him at the two-guard spot a bit," added Vickerman.

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"We went to him on penetration and that was successful. I think he's going to have a very good second half of the year."

The Breakers need a lot to go right to back up with a second straight road victory. Mika Vukona and Tom Abercrombie must stay out of the foul trouble that curtailed their minutes in Sydney, Bruton, Corey Webster and Daryl Corletto have to contribute in the backcourt, Reuben Te Rangi has to provide positive minutes at power forward and they've got to continue to make their small ball lineup work.

It's a coaching challenge that Vickerman relishes. "It definitely keeps you on your toes," said the rookie coach.

He also hopes the pressure defence that yielded 21 turnovers against the Kings can again be a factor in Adelaide. "It's something we want to continue with the whole year. It requires you to play a lot of people a lot of minutes and I thought our spread of minutes over that game was excellent."

Meanwhile, Vickerman has criticised the ANBL rule that effectively takes players with American college aspirations out of away games. Salt, who's headed to the University of Virginia this year, can't be utilised while Pledger is out because he is required to be paid if he travels.

"As a league we've got to look at that rule," said Vickerman. "We want to keep kids in the system here and we've got to encourage them to be able to play and still keep their eligibility alive.

"Then if they choose to play because they enjoy being part of the programme it's better for our league anyway. It's the kids being disadvantaged. It would have been a great opportunity for Jack to play and if you can play him in home games, why shouldn't we be allowed to play him on the road?"

- The Dominion Post

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