Gabriel flies in to try out the Mountain Airs
Taranaki Mountain Airs basketball coach David Bublitz missed out on one two-metre plus player but landed another yesterday.
"It's good to have him here," said Bublitz after American Kenny Gabriel arrived at New Plymouth airport.
"It's always good to lay eyes on them and make sure they are the height they say they are. It's a good feeling after all we've been through. We're pretty lucky to have got a replacement like this."
Gabriel is a late replacement for fellow American Suleiman Braimoh who was signed last year. But things unravelled when Braimoh's application for a visa was turned down a couple of weeks ago and the hunt for another forward began.
"It's just been unfortunate. It dragged on longer than it should have."
Bublitz said Gabriel was officially here on a trial and would play in the annual pre-season tournament in Porirua this weekend.
"We're working through the process of getting him a work visa, it's much easier when they are in New Zealand," he said.
"He's pretty keen to get into it. I'm not sure how much game time Kenny will get, but he'll certainly play."
Bublitz said Gabriel had been playing in Israel but left there because of the conflict to play in Cyprus.
"He's six foot, eight inches. He's athletic and by the look can stretch out defences. He's an aggressive defender and was the first guy in Auburn University history to record a triple-double - 24 points, 13 rebounds and 10 blocked shots."
Fellow import shooting guard Jack Leasure arrived earlier this week and he will also play this weekend along with regulars Aaron Bailey-Nowell, Link Abrams, Andrew Green, Eli Paurini and Brad Anderson.
Newcomers Ethan Rusbatch, Sid Adams, Kurtis Elliott and Dane Brooks will travel south for the tournament, along with veteran Willie Banks.
The Mountain Airs play four games. This morning they take on the Nelson Giants, with a game against the Palmerston North Jets this afternoon.
Tomorrow morning they take on league newcomer Waitakere City Rangers before finishing with a game against the Wellington Saints in the afternoon.
Taranaki Daily News