The Red Baron is coming home.
Tall Black Hayden Allan got his start with the Otago Nuggets
15 years ago and will return on a one-year deal with the
option of extending his contract by a further year.
The 33-year-old guard last played for the Nuggets in 2004
before moving to Auckland.
Born and raised in Dunedin, Allan said he had always flirted
with the idea of returning to the franchise.
''I've always had an affinity with the Nuggets,'' Allan said.
''Whenever Brownie [Otago Basketball general manager Markham
Brown] comes up here or I go down there, we always have a bit
of a chat about returning. So it just kind of fell into place
pretty easily. It was painless and a bit of a no-brainer, to
Allan won a title with the Auckland Pirates last season but
said it looked as though the club would fold after just a
year in the league. That uncertainty helped pave the way for
Allan and his young family will not be relocating to Dunedin,
though. Wife Nat is pregnant with the couple's second child -
due in May - and son Reggie is 16 months.
''I'll be flying in and out, which is not ideal for a team
structure. But I'll do my best to fit in and try to get in as
many trainings and pre-season weekends and as possible.
''My wife was really good about it, too. She knew I wanted to
play for the Nuggets at some stage again and she is really
supportive, which made it much easier for me."
Allan will combine with veteran Mark Dickel in a guard
line-up which promises to be deadly. Dickel's passing game
and ball-handling skills are first class and he is an
excellent defender. Allan is also a hard man to beat and he
has a reputation as a clutch player with a superb outside
shot. He is also an unselfish character and has bundles of
experience and two championship titles.
''I've grown up with Sparky [Dickel] and it will be cool for
a couple of local boys to be playing together again and get
the Nuggets back to where they should be.
''I've got a taste for winning now and I don't want to
regress and start losing. But with the team we've put
together, I think we can get a few wins on the board and take
a shot at it."
While the Wellington Saints have been busily recruiting an
all-star line up including internationals Lindsay Tait, Corey
Webster, Casey Frank and veteran Dillon Boucher, the Nuggets
have assembled a more than useful crew as well.
Former Tall Black forward BJ Anthony will have a point to
prove after losing his spot in the Breakers squad and will
combine with outstanding American centre Antoine Tisby. Tisby
finished the regular season at the top of the league's player
power rankings with an average of 22 points, 12.1 rebounds
and 1.6 blocks.
Tall Black and Breakers swingman Leon Henry has enormous
potential and back-up players Sam King and Riki Buckrell are
expected to return and developed enormously last year.
Add another import into the mix and the Nuggets look capable
of making a rare appearance in the post-season. The franchise
has not sighted the playoffs since 1997, so that would be
''Obviously, Wellington look rather stacked, but if you can
get to the finals, anything can happen.
''The playoffs would be the first goal. I don't think that is
out of the question with having some veterans on the team who
understand what it takes to win. And when you've got quality
imports and a couple of good local boys then I don't see any
reason why not."
Nuggets coach Alf Arlidge trumpeted Allan's signature with
''He is a great shooter and good in the clutch. Defensively
he'll bring a lot too, and he is an excellent rebounder,''
''We're pretty excited, actually. He's a really good guy and
I think he'll be a really good fit for us.
''He brings lots of experience that we are lacking.
''It is just another piece of the puzzle which we've been
building slowly over the last three or four years."