Waikato Pistons net Breakers star Abercrombie

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2014
Tom Abercrombie
Getty Images
FRONTING UP: Tom Abercrombie in action for the Breakers.

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The Waikato Pistons have pulled off the biggest coup of the 2014 NBL season by signing Tall Blacks and NZ Breakers star Tom Abercrombie.

The athletic small forward will join Breakers team-mate Casey Frank at the Pistons for the upcoming New Zealand National Basketball League.

They'll be under the guidance of new coach Pero Cameron in a side that will also feature highly promising Kiwi teenager Jack Salt and Cairns-based forward Zac Carter.

"It's a massive coup for us, having him, and Casey and Pero," said Waikato Basketball community basketball manager and Pistons spokesman Anthony Corban.

The 26-year-old Abercrombie, who played for the Pistons between 2009 and 2011 - helping the franchise to the NBL title in his debut season - has been a standout performer for a Breakers team that has won the past three Australian NBL crowns. He was the ANBL finals Most Valuable Player when the Breakers won their first title in 2011.

Corban said while Abercrombie was an Aucklander, "his statement's always been that the only side he's been interested in playing for this year is Waikato".

"I think the lure of being coached by Pero helped as well obviously."

Cameron is also an assistant coach for the Tall Blacks, who will play at the World Cup in Spain in August.

"With it being World Cup year, there's a desire from Nenad [Vucinic, NZ coach] to have all the local Tall Blacks involved in the NBL this year," Corban said.

The signing came after three months of negotiations, as the Pistons look to build their on-court performances and profile. The franchise chose not to contest the 2012 NBL, instead focusing finances on youth and coaching, which has paid healthy dividends with outstanding results from boys and girls age-group sides last year.

The Pistons re-entered the league last year and finished eighth in the nine-team competition under coach Doug Courtney with limited resources.

This year funding has been aimed at coaching - with Cameron also player development manager - and opting for NZ stars as marquee players instead of imports.

"We have a very-hard working group on the Pistons board," Corban said.

"All credit to the Pistons board and the board at the Waikato Basketball Council in 2013 - they really got their head around everything involved in costings and budgetings for the NBL.

"We've been very stringent on expenditure this year.

"We're also pretty confident and excited about the group we've got coming in, with a nucleus of young players and a key focus on youth throughout the programme.

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"Our intention over the next three years is to focus on a core group of young NZ players, to replace that group that had been the hallmark of past Pistons side, when you had Ben Hill, Mike Homik, Puke Lenden and Ray Cameron.

"Now we've got to start again."

The Pistons start their NBL season on April 4 away to the Bay Hawks in Napier.

- Fairfax Media

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