The inaugural Sharks’ Summer Basketball League culminates on Thursday night with two very even contests predicted.
Team Orange, undefeated in its four League games, including a blow-out win in last week’s semi-final, will take the favourite's tag into Thursday’s Grand Final against Team Blue, while the young White and Black teams will square off in the early game in the playoff for third.
Southland Basketball’s Development Officer and former Southland Shark Dan Peck is cagey about predicting results.
“White verses Black will be a good game for the young guys and a fitting end for them. A lot of injuries have plagued both of those teams, but it’s a good chance for them to go at each other and a lot of them are under the microscope for rep stuff next year and their commitment level will factor in to those selections,” he said.
Team Black will be without key big-men Connor Coll (injury) and Mac Stodart, who is in the United States on the Air Raiders basketball tour, which evens the match-up.
“Missing those two does hurt Black size-wise, but White is not big, so it will be a battle for the smalls out there and should be really competitive,” Peck said.
The Final is a mouth-watering prospect, pitting Sharks team mates from last year against each other.
The two sides met in the opening round of the league, with Orange taking the win on the back of a strong final five minutes. Blue have acquired the services of Hoani MacDonald since then, who has come into the squad as an injury replacement, adding size and physicality to the Blue lineup.
“It will be a good battle between Andrew Wheeler and Tom Cowie at the point guard position and it will be interesting to see which role players step up and make plays. That usually is the difference in a close match,” Peck said.
The Summer League has been developed as a pathway for local players into the SIT Zero Fees-sponsored Sharks and Peck believes it has been an unheralded success.
“It's been above and beyond what we were thinking initially. It’s probably been the first time we have had enough players of this calibre to be able to field four teams at this level, so that’s a good sign for Southland Basketball in terms of growing a larger base of players and the pathway feels genuine now.”
“This Summer League has really opened up a path directly into the Sharks. We’ll release the Sharks’ pre-season squad of about 15 next week which will start training a couple of times a week from February so once Juddy (Sharks Head Coach Judd Flavell) arrives he’ll be able to hit the ground running.”
“I’m excited for a couple of the guys who have really put their hand up. I think there are some players here that people haven’t been noticed in the past that have a real chance to make that Sharks roster, so that’s exciting for the locals and for Southland’s presence in the Sharks team,” Peck said.
And he should know, being one of only three Sharks to have played more than 50 games for the team in their eight-year history.
“When I was first started out in these guys’ shoes, you started out as a training spot. Then you broke into the 12, suiting up in a home game. If you got a chance to jump in if there was a blow-out, that was your opportunity to show what you had and there are always injuries throughout the season that opens doors. There will be genuine opportunities for these local guys throughout the season I’m sure,” Peck said.
Both games will be played on ILT Stadium Southland’s Court 1 on Thursday night with White v Black at 6:00pm followed by the Final between Orange and Blue at 7:30pm. Entry is free.