Breakers' Casey Frank ready, whatever comes
Casey Frank isn't totally sure whether he'll be calling the game or playing in it tonight, but either way he's ready.
Frank was a recent callup to the New Zealand Breakers to cover for the extended absence of starting centre Alex Pledger with an ankle injury. He played in the 93-87 victory in Melbourne, and also in last week's 97-72 thumping in Perth, where he lasted just over seven minutes before fouling out in club record time.
And the 36-year-old naturalised American, who's been to two world championships with the Tall Blacks, remains on deck with Pledger considered a doubtful participant tonight against the Wollongong Hawks at the NSEC.
If the still tender Pledger doesn't play - a decision likely to be made at shootaround today - Frank will suit up as backup big man for the Breakers.
If Frank's services aren't required, he'll slip into the shirt and tie and stride up to Sky's commentary box where he will join play-by-play man Andrew Mulligan in his customary spot calling the game.
"I've got to prepare like I'm going to play because if you go the other way and get a surprise it's not too good," he said yesterday after a rigorous final training. "I'm just trying to get in better shape, get a better handle on the plays and if I do get the callup make sure I don't get as many fouls as last week."
Frank feels more comfortable in his role now and, most importantly, after three weeks of practice and a couple of games he feels like his legs are finally under him.
"It normally takes a good four to six weeks to get in shape, so this is a sort of crash course. I just haven't really had my legs and that's led to me being a bit more aggressive with my hands and getting those fouls. But I'm feeling better this week."
It's fair to say Frank, a relaxed customer at the best of times, is taking it all in his stride.
He boasts that his callup is vindication Sky's commentary team knows its stuff and after knocking back a few recent offers to play in the Aussie league, he says he's treating this third stint with the Breakers as an unexpected bonus.
"I still love to play and to get the opportunity at the highest level in New Zealand and Australia is fantastic. It's much more fun to be on the court than in an office."
Putting his commentating hat on, he feels like the formula is a pretty simple one tonight for the 6-11 Breakers in their first home game in over a month.
"We've got to control the possession battle, and most importantly control the rebounds. Keeping them off the offensive glass is No 1 and if we don't give them extra possessions that hurts them quite a bit.
"Secondly, we've got to contain their scorers. If Rotnei Clarke gets off and has a huge game like he's capable of it's not going to be good. Also we have to pay attention to Oscar Forman because when he has good games against the Breakers the Hawks tend to get those victories."
As far as his own role, Frank says he'll be focusing on help-side defence, rebounding, finding his shooters and punishing the Hawks if and when they leave him open.
He was also able to laugh at his five fouls picked up in just 7:27 on court against Perth. "Sadly, I have beaten that," he added with a grin. "I once fouled out in just six minutes as a freshman at Northern Arizona."
But Frank remains deadly serious about his hoops. He says he's close to agreeing to terms to play another Kiwi NBL season with the Saints and is also keen to have one more tilt at the Tall Blacks.
"When I graduated in August with a degree it was time to either get a job or take one more swing at the basketball, and I decided I'd like one more chance at the world champs."
Meanwhile, Breakers coach Dean Vickerman says it's time for his team to shake off its hot-and-cold form and find a much-needed groove tonight.
"These are games we've got to win, so we don't have a chance to be hot and cold right now, we just have to be hot. We're looking forward to playing at home again, we've tried to freshen people up and we'll have great energy come Thursday night."
- © Fairfax NZ News