Mountain Airs land new big man

AIR TIME: Taranaki Mountain Airs player Kaye McKee looks for a way past a Manawatu Jets defender.
AIR TIME: Taranaki Mountain Airs player Kaye McKee looks for a way past a Manawatu Jets defender.

The Taranaki Mountain Airs have nailed their big man for the 2014 season.

But it's not the player most were expecting, with team commitments in Slovakia ruling out American Gabe Knutson.

So in comes man mountain Suleiman Braimoh, a player the Mountain Airs missed out on last year when his work visa was turned down.

"Gabe's team has made the playoffs and he couldn't get here until May. We can't wait that long, so we contacted Suleiman and he's keen to come. He's big and athletic and he will really help us," said Good Home Taranaki coach Daryn Shaw yesterday.

"He was keen to come last year but there were a few complications."

Braimoh, who was born in Nigeria but has lived in the United States since 2001, is big - he's 2.03m (6ft 8in) and 104kg.

"He should be here by the end of the month. Our other import, shooting guard Adrian Oliver, arrives this week."

The Mountain Airs had their first hitout of the season at the weekend with two pre-season games against the Manawatu Jets - one in Whanganui on Saturday night and the other at the TSB Hub in Hawera yesterday afternoon.

"I was pleased with the way we went in both games even though we didn't get a win," Shaw said. "The local boys played very well."

The Mountain Airs lost Saturday night's game 92-88 and went down by five - 90-85 - in Hawera.

Shaw said a couple of players impressed.

"Young Dane Brooks was outstanding. He really took his opportunity and played well. And young Aled Jones, he showed a lot of toughness and defended well," Shaw said.

"Aaron Bailey-Nowell was outstanding. He hurt his knee on Saturday night and didn't play the first half today [yesterday]. But when he came on, he lifted the boys. We made a run at Manawatu and nearly won it.

"Aaron's leadership is key. The whole weekend has given us something to build on."

Shaw said the players would get another chance to impress at the Blitz tournament in Porirua this weekend.

"We'll play three or four games and that will be great for us. Adrian will be here and he'll have a couple of practices with the boys this week."

Taranaki Daily News