The Southland Sharks have today added another key piece to its playing roster for 2018, with Derone Raukawa confirming he will return to the side for a third season next year.
The Tall Blacks’ point guard continued his rapid rise through the basketball ranks this year, playing a feature role off the bench for the SIT Zero Fees-sponsored Sharks during the NBL and he was a key contributor for the national team, averaging 10 points in six appearances at the FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon in August.
Raukawa said it was an easy decision to suit up for the Sharks again. “The last two years have gone really well. We’ve got a good foundation and we’ve built on it, so I’m keen to be a part of it and see if we can get one step further next year. It’s a great town and my girlfriend lives there, so that helps the decision,” he said.
He believes there is further improvement coming in 2018, for the Sharks team collectively and himself individually. “I do think I’ve got more improvement in me, especially in terms of leading the team. I’m looking to make that next big step of not just being that scoring guy, but to come on and be the leader that the team needs me to be,” Raukawa said.
Sharks’ Head Coach Judd Flavell echoed that sentiment. “Derone has made huge strides in his game. Offensively, he can do things no one else can do and he’s really matured into a player that wants to get better in all facets of the game. Acknowledging that is a great first step and takes a lot of maturity. Working with him closely over the last couple of years, I’ve really seen him blossom and take on that challenge.”
“I think he’ll have a great season next year because of the all-round skillset that he has and the way he is always looking for ways to improve his game,” Flavell said.
Sharks General Manager Jill Bolger was delighted another crowd favourite is return to the Shark Tank next season. “Derone is such a livewire out on court. He’s electric and our crowd really feed off that. Another year as a Development player at the roster under Paul (Henare) and Judd will be great for him and I know he’ll take another step up for us next year,” Bolger said.
Raukawa has taken a lot of confidence in his international experience for the Tall Blacks this season. “I felt like I played really well and complimented Shea (Ili). Shea had a great tournament and I learnt a lot from him over there and from seeing him grow over the last couple of years. If I can adapt the same way he has and grow the way he’s grown, I feel like I’ll be a good professional basketballer.”
“I think we (the Sharks) were right there last year. It’s good to see we are getting the same boys back on board and if we can continue to build on what we had last year then we should hopefully see a Championship.”
Raukawa’s return completes the signing of the quartet of Sharks players in the Tall Blacks’ Asia Cup squad, alongside captain Reuben Te Rangi, Luke Aston and James Hunter.