Bates joins Nuggets coaching ranks

New Otago Nuggets assistant coaches Suzie Bates and Hamish Robertson. PHOTO: ANGELA RUSKE
New Otago Nuggets assistant coaches Suzie Bates and Hamish Robertson. PHOTO: ANGELA RUSKE
It was perhaps not the way Suzie Bates thought she would make her return to basketball.

But when the Otago Nuggets came calling, it was an opportunity the former Tall Fern jumped at.

Bates has been confirmed as an assistant coach for the team in this year’s National Basketball League, alongside promising young coach Hamish Robertson.

The duo will assist head coach Brent Matehaere, who guided the team to a title last year.

Bates (33) had been contemplating a winter of rehabilitation, a cricket shoulder injury ruling her out for the next six to nine months.

That meant the White Ferns star would not be heading overseas to play cricket.

It also meant she has been taking as many opportunities as possible to prepare for life after playing.

She has helped with some coaching for the Otago Sparks, as well as commentating on Spark Sport’s cricket coverage.

The offer to get involved with the Nuggets came as a little more of a surprise, but it was one she was keen to take up.

"It came as a bit of a shock when Brent asked me if I was interested in helping out," Bates said.

"Obviously, with my shoulder injury, I’ve got a bit of time off.

"I’ve spent a lot of time with Brent. He coached the Gold Rush and I used to babysit his kids when I was younger.

"So when he asked if I wanted to help I jumped at the opportunity.

"It’s going to be a steep learning curve, I think."

While Bates has excelled the most in cricket — at her peak she was the best batswoman in the world — she has also had an accomplished basketball career.

She played at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 for the Tall Ferns as a 19-year-old.

She also played professionally for the Christchurch Sirens in their lone season in the Australian WNBL.

Alongside that she was a regular in the Otago Gold Rush, until she was forced to concentrate on cricket when she became White Ferns captain.

Bates remains an avid basketball fan and followed the Nuggets’ successful campaign closely last year.

Her coaching experience has been limited — mainly junior cricket teams and basketball camps — so she is open to learning as much as possible.

The really exciting thing was "learning off Brent," she said.

"I’ve missed basketball so it’s good to be back around the group.

"We’ve got Brent and Hamish Robertson involved."

She is now "trying to get back into basketball mode".

"Things have changed a bit in terms of terminology and moves.

"I’m just trying to soak in as much information and give whatever input I can for the guys."

That input will likely come from her experience as a professional athlete.

Ensuring the players’ training intensity matched that of a game and pushing them to reach the highest level were things she felt she could contribute.

Meanwhile Robertson (25) joins the team after impressing in a video analysis role last year.

He has coached Otago age-group teams for several years, alongside coaching St Kevin’s College to a small-schools national title in 2016.

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