New role has King promoting new style of play

Former Otago Nugget Leonard King at the Edgar Centre yesterday, while in town as part of his new...
Former Otago Nugget Leonard King at the Edgar Centre yesterday, while in town as part of his new job as general manager of high performance at Basketball New Zealand. Photo: Linda Robertson
One of Otago basketball’s greatest ever players is back in the region this weekend.

Leonard King is set to deliver clinics in both Dunedin and Oamaru as part of his new job as general manager of high performance at Basketball New Zealand.

Having spent the past decade in Australia, King returned to the country to start his role on January 8.

He was enjoying being back in Dunedin, having played 181 games for the Otago Nuggets through the 1990s.

Indeed, he referred to it as his "second home" and had great memories of the people he played with while on the team.

It would be a quick trip this time, though.

He was travelling the country meeting key people and explaining BBNZ’s new high performance plan.

At the forefront of that is its new national style of play.

That would see a style developed for the national teams trickle down through its system.

Players would learn the skills and concepts to play that style at the grass roots.

To deliver that plan, BBNZ was looking to go through its NBL and WBC teams to start with.

In the case of Otago, that meant it would be rolled out through the WBC’s Gold Rush.

While not wanting to give too much away, he gave three key components the country would look for in its players.

"We want players that compete really hard, while being disciplined," he said.

"We want players that have high IQ. That’s one thing New Zealand has been renowned for, is having players that have high IQ and can execute really well.

"And finally, we want players that are great team-mates.

"We have a culture in this country where we play for one another and support one another.

"So those are the key attributes that we look for in players and that’s really the basis for our national style of play."

He had learnt a lot in his time in Australia, developing the ability to be innovative and look at a situation from various angles.

That would be key in his new job. One key thing he learnt was to adopt a different approach from Australia’s.

"The first thing is, we do not want to play like Australia.

"We will not beat Australia trying to play like Australia.

"So the thing that I learnt was that we have to do things differently.

"We have to be innovative and we have to have a much different approach to how we play the game and I can assure you, that will not be like how Australia plays."

He said the game was in a boom in New Zealand. Participation numbers were high, the athletes were getting better and there were now many players in top leagues in the world.

That provided a challenge, as he had to keep tabs on all of them. However, he felt it was a good problem to have.

His job now was to unify everyone and everything so they were working together in the same direction.

It all came back to the goal of trying to make the Olympics — which the Tall Blacks last did in 2004 and Tall Ferns did in 2008.

It was something he thought New Zealand was capable of, especially in light of the new qualification process through Asia, rather than having to beat Australia.

However, his main goal was to make qualification sustainable in the long term.

And from a local standpoint, the Nuggets legend was in full support of seeing his old team make an NBL return.

"Definitely, we would love to see the Nuggets back.

"We think Otago deserves a team, we think it would be great for the community having a team back here.

"But we want to make sure if the team comes back, it’s not at the expense of Basketball Otago.

"So if it comes back we want to make sure it’s healthy financially, that it’s able to manage itself on its own two feet and its not really calling on the community to help save it. 

"But absolutely, I’d love to see an Otago Nuggets team back in the NBL and, hopefully, not too far away."

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