Basketball: Nuggets still after another big body

The Otago Nuggets are leading the league in points in the paint and rebounds but they could still use another big body, player-coach Mark Dickel says.

The loss of Fijian international Marques Whippy after just one game has had a bigger impact than many imagined.

The franchise's search for a replacement continues despite fellow Fijian Pita Sowakula joining the team a couple a weeks ago.

It was hoped he would offer the kind of hustle Whippy provided in the shock win over the Southland Sharks. But Dickel believes Sowakula is not ready for the NBL, and called in former Nugget Tom Rowe as cover for the Giants game when forward Sam King had an injury scare earlier in the week.

''When we brought him [Sowakula] out here, we did not know a whole lot about him other than a little bit of film I saw,'' Dickel said.

''He is probably a little bit away from where we want to get to. He is a good player and tries hard.

''I guess we were hoping to get someone more like Marques ... and I don't want to throw the guy out there when he is not ready.''

Rowe, who will continue to fill in for the Nuggets when available, remains committed to rugby.

He plays for Zingari-Richmond in the premier competition but Dickel is keen to get the former Junior Tall Black back in the fold.

Whippy's injury would have been a good opportunity for another local, 17-year-old Sam Timmins.

Timmins made his debut for the franchise last year but the 2.04m centre has a stress fracture in his back and is unlikely to play any part in this season's campaign.

''He's been out for a couple of months now. But I believe he can start to slowly get back into it,'' Dickel said.

''I don't think the season is long enough for him to get back in shape and be able to contribute the way I was hoping he would be able to. I was anticipating him playing 10 or 15 minutes a game.''

The Nuggets have not given up on searching for a more appropriate replacement for Whippy.

''We're always looking for someone else but it becomes very difficult because good New Zealand players, or players who qualify as locals, are very, very hard to come by.''

The Nuggets host the Waikato Pistons on Saturday night.

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