The New Plymouth Boys' High School's 1st V basketball team has been flexing its muscle against some of the powerhouses at secondary school level this season.
Unbeaten in all five of their inter-school games so far, the team has the scalps of Auckland Grammar, Hamilton Boys' High, Francis Douglas Memorial College and Palmerston North Boys' High this winter.
Guiding the team is Brendon Baxter, 27, a former NPBHS student who is ably assisted by ex-Taranaki Mountain Airs head coach Dave Bublitz.
"We've been doing quite well so far," Baxter said. "It's still only the first half of our season, so we haven't really got into tournament mode."
NPBHS plays in the New Plymouth Basketball Association's premier men's league on Thursday nights and have enjoyed their share of success in the top league.
"That's really good experience too, because you get the ex-NBL players playing in certain teams, so the boys get experience playing wily older men and it helps toughen them up for the college matches," Baxter said.
"We've had a few losses in those premier matches, against some pretty good teams which have a few former Mountain Airs in their mix.
A baker for a New Plymouth supermarket, Baxter started his coaching career with his old school as an assistant to Bublitz for four years before he took charge. This is his third year as head coach.
Baxter said the depth of available basketball talent at NPBHS was a key to the team's success this year. "We've got 12 players in the team and depth-wise it's the best team I've seen in the years I've been involved," he said.
Among the group are two current Taranaki Mountain Airs - Beauden Giddy and Dane Brooks, two players with a lot of potential. Giddy captains NPBHS.
Baxter said the two Mountain Airs inspired confidence in their other 10 high school team-mates.
"They're coming to practices and games knowing they can compete against top players in New Zealand and that helps every other player in the team step up their game. It gives the team an edge."
Brooks has been starting for the Mountain Airs in this year's NBL campaign and Giddy has been getting good court time with the franchise.
"They haven't got big heads over it, they're very humble about what they've achieved and helping our guys step up to another level," Baxter said.
NPBHS will continue their inter-secondary school programme immediately after the school holidays playing Super 8 competition games where Palmerston BHS and Hamilton BHS will once again be rivals.
The Super 8 is a lead in to the regional secondary schools' tournament being held in New Plymouth which starts in early September. "If we qualify at the regionals, we get to go to the nationals in Palmerston North in October," Baxter said.
On form, NPBHS should be very competitive in the regional competition and make the top 24 teams to go forward to the nationals.
A top-eight finish is the aim, Baxter said.
AT A GLANCE
NPBHS squad: Beauden Giddy (capt), Dane Brooks, Paul Stephenson, Blair Shorter, Max Anderson, Thane O'Leary, Harrison Meads, Scott Hugo, Emmison Potts-Broughton, Brodie Wilson, Corban Giddy, Connagh Mckinstry, Trent Harper
- Taranaki Daily News
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