Basketball: Timmins heading north to advance sports career

Sam Timmins
Sam Timmins
Basketball in Otago has been dealt another blow with rising star Sam Timmins moving to Canterbury.

Instead of playing for Otago Boys' High School and living in Dunedin, Timmins (17) will be blocking shots, fetching rebounds and racking up points for Middleton Grange School in Christchurch this year.

Timmins, a talented 2.08m centre, said leaving Otago had been on the back of his mind since the Nuggets pulled out of the NBL last year due to financial difficulties.

''Up until that point I had no reason to want to leave Otago. I can't change what's happened with Basketball Otago, I just have to move on,'' he said.

''I'm gutted to leave home, Otago and Otago Boys' [High School] but I've got to focus on where I want to go and what I've got to do to get there.''

If all goes well at his new school, he should find himself playing for the Canterbury Rams under former Otago Nuggets player and coach Mark Dickel, who also made the move north after the Nuggets' demise.

With no chance of playing in the NBL while in Dunedin, Timmins was left with no choice but to leave.

A ''few'' regions offered to help him out, including Southland, but Timmins ''felt most comfortable'' with Canterbury.

''My focus is on getting a scholarship to the US for 2016 and the advice I've had is that I need to be playing NBL to help me achieve that.

''Playing with and against the best players in the country is the best way for me to develop my game and show college scouts what I'm capable of.

''There isn't really a New Zealand programme for my age group this year so any NBL minutes I can get will be extra important for me.''

Timmins played off the bench in two games for the Nuggets in 2013, but a stress fracture in his back kept him sidelined for much of last season.

After getting fit late in the season, he helped New Zealand reach the final 16 of the 3x3 basketball tournament at the Youth Olympics in China in August.

He then scored 26 points and grabbed 23 rebounds to help Otago Boys' beat Westlake Boys' High School and win its first national secondary schools title in Palmerston North in October.

The giant centre also had a stellar performance in the Junior Tall Blacks' agonising 84-81 loss to Australia in the Oceania championship final in Fiji last month.

Timmins hopes to thrive under Canterbury's development programme, with which Dickel is involved, to prepare for collegiate basketball in the United States.

''I went up and visited last Thursday and they were just showing me the setup they have got. It's really exciting to see how good I can get through that programme,'' he said.

''Canterbury have got a big focus on developing young players and creating a pathway for New Zealand players to go to the US. They have some great systems in place and people with the kind of expertise I can tap into.

''Having Dickel there is obviously a bonus for me, because I know and respect him as a coach. He's had a huge influence on my development so far, so I'm keen to work with him some more.''

A couple of US colleges offered Timmins scholarships this year, but he decided to stay in New Zealand for another year to develop his game and increase his chances of earning more minutes next year.

Timmins will move to Christchurch on Saturday with fond memories of his time in Dunedin and at Otago Boys' High School.

''I will miss Otago Boys' and my mates there. Winning school nationals last year is a definite highlight and something I won't forget. Otago Boys' have been very supportive of my sport and helping me keep up with school work. I will always be an Otago Boys' boy,'' he said.

Timmins will stay with Faith Harrison, the mother of Canterbury Rams owner Andrew Harrison, while in Christchurch.

Karen Timmins, Sam's mother, said she would be ''bawling my eyes out, figuring out how not to cheer for Canterbury but cheer for Sam'', once he moves.

Joseph Cook-Green, who played with Timmins at Otago Boys' and with the Junior Tall Blacks, is also moving to Christchurch for basketball and will complete year 13 at Cashmere High School.

by Robert van Royen 

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