It wouldn’t be an NBL season in Southland without Andrew Wheeler’s familiar face and accompanying bark during training and game days at ILT Stadium Southland.
That will again be the case in 2023, with the longest-serving Shark in history returning for a 12th season with the club. However, the man known to most as Wheels will have a different primary role this season.
Wheeler will officially fill the Assistant Head Coach role alongside first-year Head Coach Guy Molloy, whilst still also featuring on the player roster, should the need arise.
“It’s probably a nice way to say I’m too old and slow but my voice still works alright so we’ll keep it going a bit longer,” Wheeler joked.
“Obviously having been around since 2010 and playing for multiple coaches and being a lover of watching basketball, I’ve definitely been around long enough to see some things and form my own opinions and the nature of being one of the older guys in the squad these last few years is you become a vocal leader as well.”
“I’m not getting any faster and the guys are pretty quick out there these days, so it’s really a natural evolution. I love basketball and want to keep being involved and coaching is a path I want to go down. The assistant coach role fits nicely so I can help out where I can and do whatever the team needs,” Wheeler said.
The veteran point guard was a member of the original Sharks squad in 2010 and has been part of all three title-winning campaigns in 2013 and 2015 under Paul Henare and Judd Flavell’s 2018 championship team. But, like many of the 2022 squad, he learnt a lot from the challenges of last season.
“Obviously we have a few things that we want to improve on from last year and a lot of the boys are saying they are coming in with a chip (on their shoulder). At the same time, it is a fresh year with a new coach and a new look and obviously Guy (Molloy) is going to lead that. For me, it’s more a fresh start with guys who are extremely motivated people that do things the right way,” he said.
“I believe if you are relying on that “chip”, it can ebb and flow. It’s your habits and who you are as people that is really going to translate into success. It’s cool that some of the guys have been saying they’ve got that chip, but that won’t be enough. It will be about guys who are consistent in their habits and making sure that we have got people across the board that are going to do all the things that are going to lead to success, and I think we’ve done that,” Wheeler said.
Molloy, who has quickly formed a strong working relationship with Wheeler, feels very fortunate to be able to call on someone as experienced in the Sharks and the NBL.
“For a start he’s the longest serving Sharks player so the knowledge of the ins and outs around the standards and processes around the club is very high. Then comes his familiarity with the League and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of a lot of other players. That is also going to be a massive benefit to me and to the team,” Molloy said.
The Sharks commence their 2023 Sal’s New Zealand National Basketball League campaign against the Manawatu Jets on Friday 7th April at 7:00pm at ILT Stadium Southland. Season tickets to watch the Sharks against all nine NBL opponents are on sale now at ILT Stadium Southland.