Basketball: Whippy eager to taste success with Nuggets

Any league you go to, you want to improve your game and that is one area I want to focus on -...
Any league you go to, you want to improve your game and that is one area I want to focus on - Marques Whippy. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
You can just see the headline now - sweet delivery from Mr Whippy.

Or perhaps that should read: Marques Whippy, a sweet delivery.

The 27-year-old Fijian will certainly be a physical presence for the Otago Nuggets this season.

He is, after all, built a bit like a Massey Ferguson.

He is a rugged, powerful man, complete with a false tooth he has had since he copped a stray elbow in a basketball game.

He is also a friendly, warm man and, well, just a little bit sweet.

Most importantly, the power forward comes recommended by Leonard King.

King played 181 games in nine sizzling seasons with the Nuggets and certainly would not put his beloved franchise wrong.

King was Whippy's coach in Brisbane for two years.

''I was going to go back this year but coach King referred me to this team. And I thought: Why not give New Zealand a try,'' Whippy said.

Whippy was unaware of his former mentor's illustrious career with the Nuggets.

''I never heard anything about his playing career. He was just strictly a coach. He never took a shot in practice, so I knew nothing about him.''

King, though, did share a colourful story with Whippy.

King said when his agent told him the Nuggets were in the South Island of New Zealand, he had latched on to the word ''Island'' and expected white sand, blue skies and sunshine.

Yes, well . . . sadly, no.

But everyone knows Mr Whippy is better cold, right?

Anyway, thanks to King's yarn, Whippy and his wife, Valmene, and 7-month-old daughter, Olive, have come prepared for the weather.

Whippy is not sure what to expect on the court. King left out those details.

The Nuggets, though, know what they can expect from Whippy, and it is defensive hustle.

While at the University of BYU-Hawaii, he made a record 245 steals.

Whippy suggested the reason he had made so many steals over the years was because people had underestimated him.

At 1.93m, he is short for a big man but he makes up for it with his physicality.

''I like to be part of the clean-up crew. You know, get the long rebounds and do the clean-up work. But I like to play a physical game . . . and be aggressive.

''I also like to play with attitude and get the team fired up. But I don't really create stuff - I'm more of a role player.

''One of the reasons coach [Mark] Dickel brought me in was for defence. Any league you go to, you want to improve your game and that is one area I want to focus on.''

Whippy is also used to playing against much bigger opponents. He made his debut for the Fijian national team as a 14-year-old.

''My uncle is the coach. It is a family business.'' he joked.

His father, Paul Whippy, is a former national coach as well, and his mother, Olive, also played international basketball.

''Basketball is in the blood. But you go to trials and there are only 30 boys. You go to a rugby trial and there is 500 boys.''


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