Breakers coach Dean Vickerman has defended the decision to bring 36-year-old former Breaker, and current television commentator, Casey Frank onto the struggling champions' bench on a short-term contract.
Frank, who last played in the Australian NBL with the Gold Coast Blaze in 2009, will start off the bench for the defending champions in their must-win clash against the Melbourne Tigers in the Victorian capital.
The decision to bring Frank into the Breakers fold was made following a search of big men options throughout Australia and New Zealand after giant centre Alex Pledger suffered an ankle injury in training in late December.
Frank's recruitment could be labelled a panic move by the Breakers, given their 5-10 record this season and increasingly unlikely odds to reach the league playoffs - but Vickerman disagrees.
"When Alex went down and we knew it was going to be a long-term injury, we started the search pretty much straight away to see if we could find somebody," Vickerman told Fairfax Media.
"We looked at the Australian market, the New Zealand market - and Casey was certainly the best option. He's a Tall Black and he's in good shape right now.
"Some people might think it is strange that he is coming out of the commentary box, but he actually has seen a lot of our games, and understands what we do.
"I thought he was the best guy we've had in practices this week - he has been outstanding."
Frank, who has played in an Auckland summer league run by former Tall Black Lindsay Tait, has been contracted to the Breakers for tonight's clash against the Tigers, and their January 17 match-up against Perth.
He is also an option to play against Wollongong on January 23 if Pledger isn't fully recovered from his injury.
Vickerman envisages Frank will play a 10 to 15 minute bench role behind Gary Wilkinson, but could play additional minutes if the Breakers' other big men run into foul trouble tonight.
The Breakers coach played down talk that Frank's inclusion in the Breakers was a slight on the lack of quality big men around New Zealand basketball.
"Our best right now are over in college," Vickerman said. "You've got Isaac Fotu [University of Hawaii] and Rob Loe [St Louis University] - and Steve Adams in the NBA. Then you've got the next wave of kids coming through.
"Jack Salt is in our programme but he is unable to play on the road to keep his college eligibility available."
A win against the Tigers is crucial if the Breakers wish to entertain any hopes of playing NBL playoff basketball this season.
They head into tonight's clash after a huge defeat by league upstarts Adelaide last week, with the 36ers handing out a 99-73 hiding to the defending champions.
Vickerman admitted the side were embarrassed with their performance against Adelaide, and promised to be a "different Breakers team" tonight.
"We were disappointed with our effort levels, we were disappointed with our commitment to our defence and we were disappointed with our ability to box people out and keep them off the boards," he said.
"We reviewed that game and we left it over there in Adelaide. We've come back and had a fantastic week of practice and we think we'll see a really different Breakers team in Melbourne on Friday night."
- Fairfax Media
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