The busy Christmas season for the Southland Sharks continued today with Liam McRae confirming his return for the 2022 New Zealand National Basketball League.
“It was an easy decision to be honest, I mean there's nothing like playing down South especially when the crowd gets going as they did last season. It can’t be replicated anywhere else,” McRae said.
The Palmerston North native who spent five years playing collegiate ball in the United States prior to last year, had his season cut short with a nasty knee injury early in the Sharks’ Final 4 semifinal loss in July.
“Obviously 15 seconds into that semifinal wasn't how I wanted to end the season, but it is what it is, so I've just been trying to get back to where I was at and then work on my fitness to come back even better,” he said.
“It was a grade two MCL strain, which we knew straight away. The original time frame was four to six weeks of rehab and then back to normal. I got through that period and it didn't really feel right. So, we went and had another scan and found out that the unnatural movement of the knee going sideways caused the cartilage behind my knee to move which created cysts in the joint, which wasn't fun. Once I got it drained, I've been really good. A bit of cortisone and I was good to go,” McRae said.
Like his teammates, McRae said a big attraction in returning to Southland was the outstanding support the team enjoys from its passionate fan base.
“The culture around the team and around the city just makes you really feel welcome. There's a lot of guys coming from out of town, but everyone in the community really makes it feel like home and that's a huge draw for me. It’s a family environment within the team as well. I think Bevo (Head Coach Rob Beveridge) and Jill (Bolger, Sharks General Manager) do a great job and make sure that they're available to talk or if there's anything you need and you can work out with Bevo whenever you want or with Tyson (Huia, Sharks’ trainer) with the strength and conditioning side of it, it really makes it a great time,” McRae said.
Coach Rob Beveridge speaks highly of the contribution McRae made during his debut Sharks’ season in 2021 and said it was an easy decision for the club to secure him for a second season.
“To be successful, every team needs “great locker room” and glue guys and that is what Liam brings to our team. Liam was one of the most dedicated and hardest working players at the club last season and thoroughly deserves to come back to be part of our squad next season. Liam has continued to work hard in the off season and I expect him to continue to make contributions on and off the court,” Beveridge said.
McRae confirmed he has been working hard getting back to full fitness, putting him in good shape for the run in to the 2022 Sal’s NBL.
“I'm already coming in in better shape than I did last season and I’ll be ready to contribute right from the start instead of working on conditioning and working up to it. I'm ready to go!” McRae said.
McRae will be in Invercargill in January as a guest coach at Southland Basketball’s school holiday camp and will be ready to go when the league tips off in April. The Sharks first game is at home at ILT Stadium Southland on Saturday 9 April against the Taranaki Airs.