A new name and three returning locals are the feature of the final SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks roster, named today for the 2018 New Zealand National Basketball League.
Head Coach Judd Flavell has confirmed Connor Coll, Jordan Murphy and Andrew Wheeler will all return to the squad this season, along with new-comer Lydon Aoake.
For Flavell, the extended Invercargill-based build-up for local players has been a blessing, but also made this week’s cut-down a challenge.
“Unfortunately, you can’t keep everybody. We’d love to, but everybody will get their chance one day I’m sure. Some will have to wait for another season but for those that have made it the hard work is just beginning,” Flavell said.
The dedication the local trio of Coll, Murphy and Wheeler have shown over recent seasons meant they were always strong candidates to return.
“Those guys have grown each season and one of the attributes you look for in an athlete is commitment. Those three have been there from my first day here on the job and you love that they keep turning up, pushing themselves and pushing the rest of the group.”
Commitment is the word Flavell also uses to describe the new addition to the 2018 roster.
Lydon Aoake resides in Clinton in South Otago and has racked up the miles to and from Invercargill over recent months, to put himself in position to break into the NBL.
“I’m really happy for Lydon. He’s been around the scene and I know him from his Auckland days and he’s moved down here and has really made a push for this. He’s got himself into shape and it’s taken a lot of hard work.”
Promising Southland youngsters Nathan Walker and Luka Williams have had their consistency over the pre-season rewarded with selection as Development Players for the 2018 season.
“It’s great to have these younger guys, who have been part of this right from the Summer League to the pre-season to now and there’s good signs there for Southland basketball to have this next generation coming through, really eager to learn. I’ve been really impressed with the way they’ve absorbed information and been eager to please and as a coach that is what you want to work with,” Flavell said.
Zimbabwe-born point guard Tinashe Matambanadzo has also been added to the squad for the NBL Pre-season Blitz tournament this weekend.
The squad continues to assemble in Invercargill with Reuben Te Rangi, Derone Raukawa and American import Orlando Coleman arriving in the south on Wednesday, Australian Jarrad Weeks touches down on Monday, while Alex Pledger will link with the Sharks in Palmerston North this weekend for the NBL Blitz tournament.
A third import player is still an option for the Sharks, with NBL rules now allowing a maximum of three per squad.
Meanwhile, Flavell views this weekend’s Blitz as vital in building combinations on and off court.
“It’s great to have these preseason games and the Blitz gives us the chance to look at other teams as well. But for us, it’s about guys spending time together. We are getting together late and the best way to do that is to get on the road, travel together and live together for the weekend. Guys will be on court trying to figure out how to play together, because we got some new guys in there and we need to build chemistry.”
“Of course, we will be trying to get wins, but ultimately, we see it as an opportunity to build and with our first game just around the corner against Hawkes Bay, we want to get through the weekend and put our immediate focus on the Hawks.”
The Sharks face the Bay Hawks in Taradale in the 2018 NBL Season-Opener on Thursday 26 April from 7pm. The game will be live-streamed via the NBL website.
2018 SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks
Lydon Aoake, Luke Aston, Orlando Coleman, Connor Coll, James Hunter, Jordan Murphy, Alex Pledger, Derone Raukawa, Reuben Te Rangi, Tom Vodanovich, Jarrad Weeks, Andrew Wheeler.
Development Players: Nathan Walker, Luka Williams.