Taranaki Basketball has signed a big man for 2013.
Two-metre-plus American Suleiman Braimoh brings some much needed height and size to the Taranaki Mountain Airs.
The 22-year-old is 2.03m tall (6ft 8in) and 104kg. He and shooting guard Jack Leasure are the team's two imports.
Braimoh was born in Benin City, Nigeria, but moved to the United States with his parents in 2001.
"That was the first time I played basketball. I didn't start playing organised basketball until 2004-2005. Before that, I played nothing but soccer," he said.
"In high school, I went to Lawrenceville Prep and we finished the season as one of the top school teams in the state.
"In college, I went to Rice University [where he graduated in civil engineering] and played division one. Professionally, I've played in the NBA development league and played in Qatar for the second part of the season last year."
Braimoh said his strengths were defence, rebounding and offensive versatility. "Defence and rebounding are things that I focus a lot of my energy on when I'm on the court. I can defend multiple positions and rebound from several spots on the floor as well.
"For offensive versatility, I think I'm strong enough to play inside and skilled enough to operate outside as well."
So why New Zealand and why Taranaki?
"I have a close friend [Chris Hagan, Manawatu Jets] who has played in New Zealand and he loved it. He told me lot of good things about it," he said.
"Taranaki, because I've heard it's a very beautiful part of New Zealand, as well as a very good fan base."
Braimoh said he had heard the New Zealand league was very competitive.
"Being the competitor that I am, I'm looking forward to competing and being challenged.
"I want to be the best team-mate I can be, be a leader and help the current players on the team. Together, I think we can make a strong push at the playoffs," he said.
"I'll also be looking forward to getting out in the community and helping the young talent through the Taranaki Basketball coaching in schools programme.
"I expect to work hard every day for the Mountain Airs and help them be a successful team."
Braimoh said he didn't come from a sporting family.
"I come from a very academic family. My father, Suleiman Sr, is a PhD holder and my mother, Igho, a law school graduate. I'm an only child."
Taranaki Mountain Airs coach David Bublitz was pleased to have his two imports signed up.
"Jack's coming back, which is good, and I've had some pretty good recommendations about Suleiman," he said.
"We needed a big man. While our bigs competed well last year, against teams with legitimate big men, we lacked a little presence on the inside.
"By all accounts, Suleiman has that size and presence. He's pretty athletic and will take other ‘bigs' away from the hoop."
Three Taranaki players have been included in the West Coast Fever men's basketball team to compete in a trans-Tasman special Olympics tournament in Cairns next week. They are Rhys Besley, Roger Bublitz and Fraser Harris, along with Special Olympics North Taranaki club co-ordinator Ian Mischefski, who will coach the side. They will team up with players from Manawatu and Kapiti for the tournament, which has attracted more than 350 athletes from both sides of the Tasman. This year's tournament involves basketball, football, athletics and tenpin bowling.
- Taranaki Daily News
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