The SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks today announced a 14-man local pre-season training squad which will prepare for the 2018 National Basketball League season in the New Year.
The squad consists of players selected from the recent Sharks Summer League and will commence training from February, with players aiming to earn selection on the Sharks’ NBL playing roster.
It contains a mix of experience and youth, including five current or former Sharks, Andrew Wheeler (seven seasons between 2010 & 2017), Paratene McLeod (2010-2013), Rhys Smolenski (four seasons between 2011 & 2015), Jordan Murphy (2015-2017) and Connor Coll (2017).
The squad also features 2017 New Zealand Under 17 representative Mac Stodart, alongside Southland Under-17 team mates Nathan Walker, Matt Maginn and Luka Williams, together with current Southland Under-19 representatives Keegan Irwin, Fraser Wiseman, Soul Tipu and Jayson Collett.
Former Auckland representative basketballer Lydon Aoake, who has relocated south, has also been selected following consistently strong performances over the five-week competition.
Southland Basketball Development Officer Dan Peck is delighted with the depth in this year’s squad.
“When I look at the list, I see potential for every guy in there to one day get to Sharks’ level. The Summer League has certainly helped speed that up immediately and I’d expect the League and the structure around it will help provide a pathway for guys locally. They can now see it and feel it and know that if they want to make it into the Sharks, they can potentially get there.”
“It’s great to see guys like Rhys and Paratene come back in and want to give it another crack. Both guys are certainly capable of getting to that next level and I thought both of them looked in good form. Lydon certainly showed real potential to play at the next level and more importantly, he was a great team mate, a good leader and he showed a lot of tools.”
“Those guys, along with the younger guys who have made the squad and our three strong incumbents in Wheels, Connor and Jordy will make those final spots very competitive. We haven’t seen this level of competition for spots in past years.”
“They’ve now got a month and a half over Christmas where they will need to stay in shape, stay shooting and handle things themselves. Then, from February they will train two times a week and if the opportunity presents itself, we’d love to give these guys a game or two as well,” Peck said.
A number of players were not considered for selection, due to other commitments in 2018.
The 2018 National Basketball League season will commence on 26 April, with the Southland Sharks first home game scheduled for Thursday 10 May at ILT Stadium Southland against the newly-returned Manawatu Jets.
Season tickets for 2018 are now on public sale via ILT Stadium Southland.
The full SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks Pre-Season Training Squad is: Lydon Aoake, Connor Coll, Jayson Collett, Keegan Irwin, Matt Maginn, Paratene McLeod, Jordan Murphy, Rhys Smolenski, Mac Stodart, Soul Tipu, Nathan Walker, Andrew Wheeler, Luka Williams and Fraser Wiseman.