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September 13, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Kiwi basketball

The future of Kiwi basketball looks bright enough. The Tall Blacks made it past the competitive pool stages for the third consecutive time at the World Championships, with some unprecedentedly strong showings along the way, such as a narrow, hard-fought loss against defending champions Spain, and an impressive 82-70 victory over the highly-ranked French. The Kiwis were realistic about their chances before the tournament, and despite being knocked out by Russia in the second round on Tuesday, they have once again proven themselves to be a genuine threat on the world stage. This form can only be a blessing for the New Zealand Breakers in the upcoming Australian National Basketball League (ANBL) season.

Breakers’ coach Andrej Lemanis recently finalised the player roster for the season starting on 15 October. Guard Kevin Brasswell has returned to the club and, in Lemanis’ view, “rounds out the roster nicely”. The American was credited with being crucial to the Breakers’ late charge last season, thanks to his passing game and vision, which allowed him to link superbly with playmakers such as CJ Bruton and Kirk Penney.

The Tall Blacks’ success is promising for the Breakers, with the bulk of the Auckland-based club’s talent being local. Standout performances from the likes of mountainous prodigy Thomas Abercrombie, returning hard-man Mika Vukona and ever prolific scorer Penney are excellent signs. Add to that the likes of Tall Black ANBL veterans Dillon Boucher and Paul Henare, and young gun Corey Webster, and the homegrown talent looks set to make up a solid backbone for the side. The re-signing of Brasswell, and signing of big American forward Gary Wilkinson, along with the undisputed talents of Australian guard Bruton, makes sure the Breakers’ roster is as strong as ever.

The success of three-on-three basketball at this year’s inaugural Youth Games is filling the sport’s organisers with hope that basketball will continue to be included in future Olympics. This means that the growth of basketball in New Zealand could be further buoyed—perhaps as much as the post-2002 era, following the Tall Blacks’ extraordinary fourth-placed performance at the World Championships.

The Breakers were one of the title favourites last ANBL season, and I expect it will be the same for the upcoming season. With the inherently close nature of the Australian league, however, it is always hard to pick a winner. This always makes it exciting to follow, as I will certainly be doing from the outset.

Let’s hope Kiwi basketball continues to grow and impress.


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