It may have come twelve months later than originally planned, but the Southland Sharks’ longest tenured player Andrew Wheeler will suit up for his tenth season in orange in the 2021 Sal’s New Zealand National Basketball League.
Wheeler, who turned 33 in January, was set to bring up double figures in his NBL playing years last season before COVID intervened and is understandably excited about belatedly making it a decade in Sharks’ colours.
“Obviously, I had an extended break and watched from afar and enjoyed how the Showdown was run and the body is feeling good and excited to get back into it.”
As you get older and you know what works and what doesn’t. I’ve always been pretty disciplined and this year I’ve had a quiet summer just working and staying in shape and focussing on getting the body right,” Wheeler said.
Like most NBL players around the country Wheeler missed getting out on court, although that was tempered somewhat as he played host to Jarrad Weeks and his wife Michelle throughout lockdown last year.
“We had a bit of fun and Weeksy is probably lucky his Breakers’ season got delayed because we both probably put on a few kilos living together,” he said.
Wheeler is a good judge of what it takes to win at NBL level and know the squad Head Coach Rob Beveridge has put together will be another competitive unit.
“With the quality of coaches we’ve had down here and with the respect Bevo has, we’ve been able to scout and recruit really good teams over recent years. It’s a nice mix with some returning guys and some new talent coming in that I’m not as familiar with, like Brayden (Inger), Johnny (Helu) and Toby (Gillooly) who the young guys speak very highly of and I’m sure they’ll come in and learn a lot from Bevo and then have the old heads like me bossing them around a bit as well,” Wheeler said.
Whilst said tongue-in-cheek, Wheeler’s experience is an important piece of the Sharks picture and that leadership role is one he takes seriously.
“I’m pretty competitive and I’ve been around the environment long enough with some pretty high-level guys and I’d like to think that part of the reason I’ve been around as long is that I do everything I can to stick to that standard as well. I’m pretty good at holding people accountable to our standards and am not afraid to tell people.”
“We’ve always been great at getting players who want to get better, want to win and want to put in the work, and no one is trying to take shortcuts. That is our Sharks’ environment and that’s why I keep coming back because everyone wants to excel and those are the kind of people I like being around,” Wheeler said.
Coach Rob Beveridge certainly fits that description, and he has admiration for Wheeler’s passion and loyalty to the Sharks.
“To have veteran stalwart guard Andrew Wheeler returning for his tenth season is really exciting. His devotion and commitment to the club is outstanding and I am really looking forward to working with and having Wheels as one of our leaders. His leadership and experience are going to be integral this season if we are to be successful,” Beveridge said.
The SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks open the Sal’s NBL season on the road in Nelson on Monday 26 April with its first home game at ILT Stadium Southland against the Taranaki Mountainairs on Thursday 29 April at 7:30pm.