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Teenage Shark off the mark

Eighteen-year-old Connor Coll has shot plenty of free throws in the gym at training over the years, it all becomes a bit of a habit.

However last week when Coll was introduced to a National Basketball League game for the first time in the Southland Sharks' 96-58 win over the Nelson Giants, the task of making those free throws came with an extra hurdle.

Over 1000 sets of eyeballs were fixed on Coll as he went about trying to register his first ever NBL points with two free throw attempts.

Looking like a player with plenty of NBL games under his belt, rather than a debut, Coll made no mistake making both attempts.

The teenager conceded the occasion did, however, provide an extra challenge.

"It was very, very nerve-wracking. I didn't know I was shooting at first until one of my team mates told me it was a shooting foul.

"I just had to step up with confidence really."

Coll joined the Sharks last season as a development player while he was at Southland Boys' High School.

He spent many hours training with the Sharks, while during games he watched on from the bench.

As the Sharks built a lead over the Nelson Giants last Thursday night Coll had a feeling the time may well have come for him to make his NBL debut.

Midway through the final quarter coach Judd Flavell paced the sideline and looked toward the bench to give Coll the nod.

"There was a lot of excitement, as well as a few fears obviously. But I was mainly excited, to be honest. The feeling was pretty unreal and it all went pretty fast."

All up Coll got 4min 8sec in the first of what he hopes will end up being many NBL appearances.

The youngster felt he still has a year or two to get up to full speed but hopes eventually he can become a regular on court when the game is in the balance.

"This season and maybe next season is about getting better and improving my game. So I can be trusted to go out on court for 10 minutes a game and know the coach can put me in and not worry about whether I'm working hard enough or not."

Coll's mother Vicki was a national basketball representative and she made the move north from Southland as a youngster to further her basketball.

In an ironic switch, Connor in 2015 moved from the family's home in Te Kuiti to try further his basketball in Southland.

He has no regrets for making what was a bold move for a 16-year-old.

"I've found a life down here to be honest. I've got friends and family down here, and also obviously the Sharks with all those boys as well."

He is in his first year out of school and has picked up a job working in upholstery.

The Shark's next assignment is a repeat of the 2016 NBL semifinal with them taking on the Wellington Saints in Invercargill on Friday night.

Article and image courtesy of The Southland Times

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