Basketball: Fitchett keen to drain his shots at redemption

Michael Fitchett goes on the drive during the Nuggets' win over the Saints in Dunedin in May 2004...
Michael Fitchett goes on the drive during the Nuggets' win over the Saints in Dunedin in May 2004. Photos by ODT.
Experienced point guard Michael Fitchett may have come out of retirement to answer an SOS from the Otago Nuggets, but he has a lot of making-up to do with the franchise.

Fitchett (29) was rushed into the squad when Mark Dickel was ruled out with a season-ending knee injury last week. He played two games during the weekend after last playing for the Nuggets in 2004.

He was still making his way in the league eight years ago but developed into a classy operator for the Nelson Giants and went on to play for the Tall Blacks.

Nuggets fans will be painfully aware of the game Fitchett brings to the court. The Giants extended their record against the Nuggets to 17 consecutive wins on Saturday night. It is the longest active winning streak by one team against another in the league, and Fitchett played a role in a lot of those defeats with his deadly three-point shooting.

Watching him drill shots from the outside was a morose experience and it is fair to say he has some ground to make up with the faithful.

His decision to join the Nuggets will go some way towards balancing the ledger.

"I had sort of ... well, not sort of, I did retire this season to focus on my work and get into the coaching side of things as well," Fitchett said.

Fitchett moved from Nelson to Auckland to manage the basketball development trust which partners with the Breakers and operates out of the same venue as the franchise.

With injuries to Breakers Cedric Jackson and Tom Abercrombie, Fitchett was asked to lend a hand at training and has been practising with the team regularly during the past few weeks.

"If I hadn't had that experience I would have just said to Alfie [Nuggets coach Alf Arlidge] there is no chance I'll be able to help you at all."

As it was, it was difficult joining a team he had not trained with.

He did not know any of the moves and was unfamiliar with many of the players.

"It was difficult gelling with the guys, especially with the likes of Akeem [Wright] and Tis [Antoine Tisby], who I haven't really seen play. I played against Antoine a little bit but it is about learning where those guys like the ball and what they can and can't do.

"Chemistry-wise we suffered this weekend, obviously."

The Nuggets were beaten 103-79 by the Manawatu Jets in Palmerston North on Friday night and 89-77 by the Giants in Nelson on Saturday.

Fitchett's outside game was rusty but he has vowed to improve in time for the Nuggets' home double-header this weekend.

"I'll be in the gym getting shots up because the weekend was pretty disappointing for me. I hang my hat on my shooting game and it wasn't up to standard.

"Obviously, there was a bit of rust.

"To be honest, every shot felt great but they were just rimming out.

"I don't think I put up any bricks all weekend, and if a couple of those would have landed we would have been right in those games."

Fitchett has the Breakers' awards dinner on Friday night and will fly to Dunedin on Saturday morning, so he will not get a chance to train with the side until then.

Breakers bench player Leon Henry will be in the same situation. He is expected to be on the flight with Fitchett and will make his debut for the Nuggets on Saturday night against the Taranaki Mountain Airs.

The Nuggets will back up the following evening against the Giants.

While Fitchett is remembered not so fondly for the damage he has inflicted on the Nuggets over the years, he also made one of the more memorable shots in the team's history.

In May 2004, the Nuggets were locked 82-82 with the Saints.

Fitchett brought the ball up court and calmly waited for the clock to tick down before making his move, described in the Otago Daily Times as "an awkward running jump shot that banked off the glass and through the net just as time expired".

Another one of those on Saturday or Sunday night and all will be forgiven.

 

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