Former Junior Tall Black Tom Vodanovich is the latest player to confirm a spot on the Southland Sharks roster for the 2018 National Basketball League.
Vodanovich returned home to Wellington in July, following four years playing Division 1 college basketball in the United States for James Madison University in Virginia and will become Shark number 65 when he suits up for the SIT Zero Fees-sponsored team next season.
The 23-year-old stands at 2.01m and was ear-marked for higher honours at a young age, playing alongside soon-to-be Sharks teammates Reuben Te Rangi and Derone Raukawa at age group level, while also spending quality time under the tutelage of Sharks’ Head Coach Judd Flavell as part of the NZ Breakers’ development programme.
“I’ve known Judd for a while now, since back in the day at the Breakers. I always kept in touch with him and we have always had a lot of respect for each other. I just really like the way he coaches and the way he runs a programme.
“I know he’s got a knack for developing players, not just on the court but off the court, so it was great when he reached out to me. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do this season but I’m really happy with where I’ve ended up and I’m looking forward to coming down,” Vodanovich said.
The player’s excitement is matched by that of his coach, with Flavell delighted to add Vodanovich to his options for 2018.
“What I liked about him back before he went to college was the way he worked on the floor. He was under-sized, but he more than made up for it with the motor that he has. He is somebody who is prepared to put his body on the line, so you’ve got to love that as a coach and I’m looking forward to pairing up with him again,” Flavell said.
“Tom will be able to give us some real energy off the bench. Last year we had some good depth there and we needed it, so he’ll give our bigs some good solid back-up, but we would also like to see him expand his skillset and see what he can bring to the table to maybe play alongside some of those guys when we want to go big. We were a good rebounding team last year and that’s something I want him to continue to help us with and I’m certain that he’s going to go all out when he’s on the floor, so he’ll help with our defensive intensity.”
“I think his future is bright and I think he’s a sleeper who has come in and will surprise some people,” Flavell said.
Vodanovich has already made his mark since returning from the USA. He was part of the four-man New Zealand squad that won silver at the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup in Mongolia in October and this week he will line up for Jeff Green’s New Zealand Maori selection, who take on the Australian Indigenous team in a three-game series in Cairns starting Tuesday night.
As to what Sharks Fans can expect from Vodanovich next year, the man himself sums it up in one word.
“Energy, and lots of it. I can do a little bit of everything. I love setting screens, getting people open and defence is what I pride myself on. I think I’m a tough dude to get passed. What I lack in height as a big, I bring the muscle to the back-court and really get down and dirty. Loose balls are my balls,” Vodanovich said.
He may be under the radar for the moment, but Sharks’ management and fans alike will be hoping that the name Tom Vodanovich is another the Southland programme puts up in lights by the end of next year’s NBL.