Couple of familiar faces set to put Nuggets to test

A couple of familiar faces are expected to line up against the Otago Nuggets tonight.

Two key parts of last year’s champion Nuggets team have finally linked with the Hawke’s Bay Hawks.

Jarrod Kenny and Jordan Hunt have spent the past six months with the Cairns Taipans.

The duo were always going to be late arrivals for the Hawks.

Their return makes an already talent-laden roster even more imposing — and of course that would come against the Nuggets.

Hunt came off the bench for the Hawks last weekend, while Kenny will make his first appearance of the season.

The pair were both influential for the Nuggets after the side picked them in last season’s Showdown draft.

Kenny’s experience got the side through many tight situations, while Hunt excelled in his rookie season and was named finals most valuable player.

Even without them this was an intimidating line-up — think Derone Raukawa, Ethan Rusbatch, Hyrum Harris plus two imports in Devondrick Walker and Rhys Vague.

It is precisely why the team was instilled as pre-season favourite.

Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere did not give much away when asked how the Nuggets planned to combat those threats.

He said the side was looking forward to facing the familiar faces though.

"I think Hunt will do his thing," Matehaere said.

"He hasn’t had a lot of game time so he’ll be amped to be on the court and contribute.

"And JK will be pretty excited to be out on the floor and have a challenge against us Nuggets.

"We’re looking forward to that as well. We’re pretty excited about it actually, catching up with the old fellow."

The Nuggets are coming off a 95-82 win against the Canterbury Rams in Christchurch on Thursday night.

It lifted the side to four wins from five road games, while also moving it to a tie for third on the table, with the Hawks.

Matehaere said it had been a "really exciting win" and much of what the side had worked on in training had carried over to the game.

Notable was a monster triple double from Sam Timmins, who posted 18 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists.

That rebounding total has been surpassed only three times in Nuggets history — once by Timmins himself with 27, while Miles Pearce and Tyrone Black had 28 and 22 respectively.

His ability to find open team-mates was notable too, a by-product of the scoring impact .

"Obviously a large amount of the defensive focus went on preventing him and Isaiah scoring. That enabled the likes of Richie [Rodger] to get to the basket.

"Sam started finding people on back cuts because they were overplaying the outsides.

"So good use of offensive knowledge and a good use of individual scout with what we thought they’d come up with as well."

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