It’s Game day Sharks Fans! The 2018 Sal’s New Zealand National Basketball League tips off this evening at Taradale in the Hawke’s Bay.
It’s a tough road start for the SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks who open the season against one of the most active off-season teams in the Bay Hawks tonight, followed by a rematch of last year’s Grand Final against the Wellington Saints tomorrow night in the capital.
Head Coach Judd Flavell has had a busy few weeks since arriving in Invercargill, pulling his 2018 roster together with this week being the first chance he has had to get the full group together.
“It’s great to have got all the team together. Obviously, we still have one import spot to fill but we’ve got the Tall Blacks’ boys who have now arrived back from international duties and Jarrad (Weeks) arrived on Monday,” Flavell said.
“You just throw everything together and we’ve spent the week walking through our systems as we’ve added each piece over the last couple of weeks and getting in to the finer details of our actions.”
The Blitz tournament on the weekend was great for us to get that chemistry going and bring the guys together off the court. It’s been a quick turn-around with us, back up on road yesterday but we had time on court together over Monday and Tuesday. They were short sessions with high intensity as we all try and get on the same page.”
“In these tight build-ups as a coach you want to add structure and still allow the guys to play with confidence without getting things too complicated. That’s the challenge for these next couple of weeks,” Flavell said.
It’s a settled Sharks roster with the core group of Kiwi players returning from last season. Alex Pledger, Reuben Te Rangi, Derone Raukawa, Luke Aston and James Hunter were all locked in early. They have been joined by new faces in Tom Vodanovich and local players Connor Coll, Andrew Wheeler, Jordan Murphy and debutants Lydon Aoake and Tinashe Matambanadzo.
The roster is rounded out by import players Orlando Coleman (United States) and newly-signed NZ Breaker Jarrad Weeks (Australia).
One import roster spot remain unfilled, with Flavell hinting an announcement is imminent.
“We’re going to get someone. We wanted to be patient and see what our group looks like. We are looking for someone who can play multiple positions, covering the four-spot who adds another shooter on the floor. We are close to being able to announce,” he said.
The Sharks face away double-headers on consecutive weeks to start the season with Flavell hoping to arrest the team’s recent mixed results away from ILT Stadium Southland.
“We haven’t travelled well. Our win loss ratio away from home hasn’t been what we would like over the last few years. At home we are great but on the road we have sometimes struggled. Travel days for us are full days, to and from Invercargill with early starts and we are usually playing back-to-backs, like we will tonight in Hawke’s Bay and tomorrow in Wellington. That’s something we want to improve this season,” Flavell said.
The Sharks first home game will be at ILT Stadium Southland on Thursday 10 May from 7pm. Season tickets and individual game passes are available from Stadium reception with special early-season pricing for Families, with two adults and two children costing just $50 for each of the the first four home games of the season.
UPDATE: The Sharks this afternoon named Canadian Conor Morgan as it's third import for the 2018 Sal's NBL. Read more here.