Bailey’s task to get best out of young guards

Former Otago Nugget player Justin Bailey gets some preparation work done for his role as a...
Former Otago Nugget player Justin Bailey gets some preparation work done for his role as a teacher at Long Bay College in Auckland. PHOTO SUPPLIED
Justin Bailey was going through some old photos when the Otago Daily Times phoned to catch up with the former Nuggets import.

It has been 13 years since the United States point guard was piling on the points for the franchise.

And much has happened since he last pulled on the Otago Nuggets’ singlet in 2007. The Nuggets dropped out of the league in 2009 for a year and went into hibernation again following the 2014 season.

The team finally re-emerged this year and Bailey is making a return for the franchise.

You will not see his silky skills back on court, though. The 42-year-old’s playing days are over.

But he has remained involved in the game and is joining the Nuggets coaching staff. He will assist head coach Brent Matehaere during the rejigged National Basketball League.

His brief is to get the best out of the Nuggets’ young guards and he is well suited to the role.

"Basically, I’ve been asked to impart my experience and help develop them. Even though it is only a short season, I’m hoping to help them as much as I can."

Since leaving Dunedin at the end of the 2007 season, Bailey has been back and forth from the United States to New Zealand.

He returned to play in the NBL in 2009 for the Waikato Pistons and helped lead the team to the title and was named finals MVP.

He finished up his playing career with a further stint in the NBL, this time for the Harbour Heat in 2012.

"It is funny. I was actually looking at some pictures now," he said with a chuckle.

"[The Nuggets] was my first job in New Zealand which was pretty cool. I’d come off a season in Sydney and I live [in New Zealand] now."

Bailey was a standout performer for the Nuggets. He averaged nearly 24 points in 18 games for the franchise and also scored 30 or more in five games.

He formed a potent combination with fellow American Branduinn Fullove but that is not what sticks out about that year for Bailey.

"We just couldn’t string together too many wins. Individually, it went all right but as a group it could have gone better."

The Nuggets could only manage two wins from 18 games and finished last.

Bailey lives in Auckland these days. He moved over with his wife, Liz, a New Zealander, in 2016 and joined the Breakers management staff for a couple of years.

And for the past three years he has run the basketball programme at Long Bay College on the North Shore. He also teaches year 9 and 10 maths at the school.

"We’re getting there," he said when asked about the basketball programme at the school.

"We’ve been able to move up a division and actually have a playing game to get to the premier grade on June 19, so it has been a few years in the making.

"The Nuggets opening game in the league is against the Jets on June 24. All the games are being staged in Auckland.


 

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