Former SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks players Reuben Te Rangi, Leon Henry and Kevin Braswell along with former coach Paul Henare have all featured in the first ten players released as part of the Sal's NBL Top 40 Player Countdown.
40 - Reuben Te Rangi
Reuben Te Rangi burst into the League with the Harbour Heat in 2012, winning Rookie of the Year honours. He headed to the deep south a year later and won his first championship with the Southland Sharks. He returned to his native Auckland in 2015 and to the Grand Final in 2016, this time with the Super City Rangers.
Back to the Sharks he went in 2017 and, you guessed it, back to the Grand Final. Two more Grand Finals would make it four in a row with back to back titles (Sharks ’18, Saints ’19) making him a three time champion.
Te Rangi’s strong drives, high IQ, leadership, and defensive abilities mean he’s regularly been the prized free agent of the last decade. At only 26, expect him further up this list by the time the 50in50 comes around.
37 - Leon Henry
Of the 10 championships up for grabs between 2010 and 2019, Leon Henry won 6 of them. Synonymous with talent-laden Wellington Saints teams where he won 5 of his titles, Henry also won Final Four MVP and a championship with the Sharks in 2013.
2017 was arguably his best year. A League record 10 3-pointers in a game v the Rams, and a Saints record 21 rebounds were the highlights as the Saints romped unbeaten to Henry’s 5th title.
In the latter years of his career he grew into a leadership role, regularly captaining the Saints. Still never afraid to take, and make, the big shots, he claimed title number 6 in 2019, the same year he played his 200th game in the League.
A ferocious competitor who was never afraid to get physical, his silky shooting stroke and consistent production and success more than merits him a place on this list.
34 - Kevin Braswell
Brought to New Zealand by the Breakers in 2010, ‘KB’ fast made himself a fan favourite in the New Zealand NBL too.
He led the Southland Sharks to their first ever title in 2013 and repeated the feat two years later. One of the most potent scorers in recent League years, Braswell was always one for the big occasion and the big shot.
In his 50th game with the Sharks, he dropped 45 points on the Airs.
His number 12 jersey hangs from the rafters at Stadium Southland where his brash, confident, yet loveable personality, and style of play, etched him into Sharks-lore.
He went on to win a further two championships as a coach with the Saints.
32 - Paul Henare
One of the greatest servants of New Zealand basketball, ‘Pauli’ Henare is known more around Aotearoa for his achievements in the Breakers and Tall Blacks jerseys. Not in Hawke’s Bay though. Despite winning two of his three championships with the Auckland Stars (1999, 2000), Henare’s crowning legacy in the League is leading his native Hawke’s Bay to their first ever title in 2006.
A five time assist champion, Henare exuded leadership on the basketball court from the moment he stepped into the League as a teenager. A pass first, defensive minded point guard with a sky high IQ, he had some enthralling rivalries with other names on this list. Pauli was, and still is, loved everywhere he goes, nowhere more so than the Bay where his number 32 jersey is retired by the Hawks.
He has gone on to win three titles as a coach (Sharks ’13 & ‘15, Saints ’19).
The full list is: 40. Reuben Te Rangi, 39. Eric Devendorf, 38. Tony Brown, 37. Leon Henry, 36. Tony Rampton, 35. Tony Webster, 34. Kevin Braswell, 33. Tony Bennett, 32. Paul Henare, 31. Angelo Hill.