Basketball: Learning process for latest Nuggets recruit

Otago Nuggets new player Pita Sowakula gets in a workout at Body Synergy earlier this week. Photo...
Otago Nuggets new player Pita Sowakula gets in a workout at Body Synergy earlier this week. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Pita Sowakula has had a crash course over the last week and is ready to make his debut for the Otago Nuggets.

The 20-year-old Fijian international will start from the bench during tonight's match against the Taranaki Mountain Airs.

As far as National Basketball League debuts go, it should be a fairly gentle introduction. The Mountain Airs are struggling this season with one win from five games, while the Nuggets have four wins from five games and will start favourite on their home court.

Sowakula arrived in Dunedin last Thursday and watched from the bench as the Nuggets beat the Hawkes Bay Hawks 97-91 in overtime.

It gave him a valuable insight into what to expect during the next two months.

Sowakula was named player of the tournament at the Fiba Oceania Championship in New Zealand last year and that helped opened a few doors for the forward.

He was noticed by a scout and will take up a scholarship at Iowa Central Community College in the United States next year.

The Nuggets also noticed, and when they were looking for a replacement for Marques Whippy they decided to place a call.

He is keen to learn all he can while with the Nuggets and hopes it will help him make the transition to college life.

He is from a big family - one of 14 children - and is still trying to adjust to his new surroundings.

Player-coach Mark Dickel said the young man was working hard to learn the Nuggets' systems and would be eased into games.

''I think he is going to be more cover for the players we have, because we are getting pretty good production from our bigs right now,'' Dickel said.

''But if we have another injury, then he is going to be required to play more. But it is a learning process for him.

"He is very, very raw but it is just a matter of having him come along and, hopefully, by the end of the season, he can really help us.

''For the next six weeks or so it will be just about how much he can learn and adapt.''

Taranaki's surprise 71-69 win against Waikato last week has added some interest to tonight's clash. American Suleiman Braimoh scored 29 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in that match and the Nuggets will need to mark him closely. Fellow American Adrian Oliver has been struggling with illness but is a capable scorer and veteran forward Aaron Bailey-Nowell is also a big threat.

Taranaki coach Daryn Shaw said the Nuggets had been in good form but his team would look to attack them in the paint.

''I've been quite impressed with how they [the Nuggets] play,'' Shaw said.

''They play really, really hard. So obviously Sparky [Dickel] is doing a good job as coach and they have brought into the system of how he wants them to play.

''We're going to look to go inside and we try to get to the foul line. Part of our goals are to make as many fouls shots as they other team shoots. We're shooting horrible from the floor but do differently from the line.''

Dickel felt his side would need to restrict the impact Braimoh and Oliver have on the game.

''They are the one team in the league who rely on their imports more than any other team. We've got to try and make it really hard for them.

''They beat Waikato last week and are more than capable. That is the lesson this year ... there is really no team which is not capable of beating anyone else, which makes the league really interesting.''

Nuggets v Mountain Airs
Edgar Centre, Dunedin
When: 7pm, tonight
Nuggets: Mark Dickel, Micah Lepaio, Troy Payne, Brendon Polyblank, Warren Carter, Sam King, Tony Tolovae, Pita Sowakula, Steve Robinson, Olly Smith, Richard Rodger, Sheldon McGuire.
Mountain Airs: Suleiman Braimoh, Adrian Oliver, Aaron Bailey-Nowell, Brad Anderson, Dane Brooks, Derek Albertsen, Todd Fisher, Kaye McKee, Nash Oh, Aled Jones.


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