Former New Zealand age-group basketballer Ethan Rusbatch and big man Sid Adams are the latest additions to the Taranaki Mountain Airs side for the 2013 season.
"Ethan is a three-man; he's athletic, 1.95 metres and has been in all the New Zealand age-group sides - hopefully he will be up from Christchurch next week," Mountain Airs coach David Bublitz said.
"Ethan was with the Southland Sharks last year."
Bublitz said Adams was related to Steven Adams, who was making an impact in college basketball in the United States, and Olympian Valerie Adams.
"Sid's come to us from Rotorua via Wellington. He's a forward and has been training really well. He's athletic and will be a real asset," Bublitz said.
"He moved up here last year and suited up for us then rolled his ankle and didn't play. He's got a job up here now, so I guess you could call him a local . . ."
Another new face is Kurtis Elliott, a point guard who moved to Taranaki last year from the Waikato for work. He played a few games for the Waikato Pistons.
Imports Jack Leasure and Suleiman Braimoh were signed last year, with shooting guard Leasure back for a fourth season with the Mountain Airs.
It will be the first for Braimoh, a 2.03m (six foot, eight inches) forward.
Along with guard Brad Anderson, who returns for a second year, and regulars Aaron Bailey-Nowell, Link Abrams, Eli Paurini and Andrew Green, the class of 2013 is taking shape.
"We've got a good mix. We were seventh in my first year as coach and fifth last year. We're progressing in the right direction. What we lacked last year was size, that's why we went with Suleiman rather than Darryl [American guard Darryl Hudson]," Bublitz said.
Having Bailey-Nowell back fully fit was a big plus.
"Auntie played with pain all last year. To have him pain-free will be a massive boost. He's had shoulder surgery and he's raring to go.
"He's strong and gets after it."
Bublitz also hopes forward Damon Rampton is available.
"He's an enigma. He's turned up to three practices and he wants to play, but he doesn't want to commit. I'd love to have him, he's got one of the best basketball brains I've come across. If he's fit and able, he fixes a lot of problems."
Bublitz said New Zealand under-18 player Dane Brooks from New Plymouth Boys' High School could make the cut for the squad.
"He's a real talent and he'll go close to making the 12.
"He's a three-man and he's developing his shooting.
"He's been working hard over the summer."
Three players not returning this season were Hudson, Mada Abdelhamid and Chris Daniels.
"Chris won't be back. He's had surgery on his ankle and only had the screws out mid-January. He's taking the year off," said Bublitz.
"Mada and Darryl won't be back either. I would have liked to have had Darryl back, but we've gone for Suleiman as our second import and Sid replaces Mada."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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