Sharks just the job for American Brian Conklin
When Brian Conklin left Invercargill last year after the victorious 2013 National Basketball League season, Southland Sharks fans and officials hoped they would see him again.
The American import set the New Zealand competition alight last year, playing a massive role in helping the Sharks win the NBL for the first time.
In his 18 games for the Sharks he averaged 22.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game and, not surprisingly, the Townsville Crocs came calling and signed him as one of their imports for the 2013-14 Australian NBL.
In December, Sharks followers got the news they wanted to hear, which was that Conklin had agreed to come back to try to help Southland defend the title.
At the time, coach Paul Henare described it as the biggest signing in the Sharks' short history.
On Monday night, after his first training with the Sharks, Conklin said it was loyalty that brought him back.
After finishing college in the United States he was not picked up in the NBA draft and was left pondering his future for nine months before Henare offered him a contract.
''It's loyalty to the programme, just because Pauly gave me my first job. I didn't get a job for the first nine months after I graduated college, and Pauly took a chance on me. And Jill [Bolger] has been great to me; she's been fantastic, and it's also a great group of guys to play with as well.
''You win a championship here and I thought 'why not come back and give it another go'. The new stadium is beautiful too. I wanted to play in that, so there's a lot of things that made me want to come back.''
Although his time in Townsville was not startling as far as team results go, Conklin impressed in his rookie ANBL season.
Among it all was a 35-point haul against the Breakers, a team which included his Sharks team-mate Reuben Te Rangi and Henare as the Breakers' assistant coach.
Conklin was hampered at the end of the season by a hamstring injury but he says it gave him a chance to freshen up and he is ready to go in game one against the Otago Nuggets on Friday night.
''I'm just excited to get here and play because I haven't played for a month, so I'm really hungry to get back at it. It's what you do for a living, so I've been itching to play for the past month.''
Conklin's wife, Kristina, will join him in Invercargill some time during the season.
The couple are not sure just where basketball will take them after that.
The Southland Times