Otago side to play Southland Sharks

Justin Ludlow.
Justin Ludlow.
Otago will get a taste of NBL-level basketball this year.

An Otago men's team is set to play the Southland Sharks in a pre-season game on Sunday, March 5, at the Edgar Centre. It will be the first time the city has hosted an NBL team since the Otago Nuggets left the league at the end of the 2014 season.

Just 11 days out from the Sharks' season-opener, it will act as a good opportunity for both sides.

''It's been a while since we have seen that calibre of game down here,'' Basketball Otago general manager Justin Ludlow said.

''We're excited that some of the kids and the veterans around club basketball here will be able to have a hit-out against an NBL squad.

''Southland were talking about their pre-season being limited. Me and Greg [Brockbank] were down there for a meeting a couple of weeks ago. We sort of intimated there could be an opportunity for them to have a game against a Dunedin-based team and they jumped at it.''

The Otago team will be coached by Brent Matehaere and Brockbank, with a squad being put together at present. There was the option of bringing in a player from outside the region if it needed a boost in size.

However, it would be opened to Dunedin-based players first, as Ludlow is keen to give the city's top players exposure outside of club basketball. He mentioned Dunedin player Olly Smith, who had picked up a spot on the Sharks' roster, allowing him to play in the NBL despite the lack of a Nuggets team.

''There's a general excitement out there. It puts some of our guys in front of [Sharks coach] Judd [Flavell]. If you look at what's happened with Olly [Smith] over the last year or so, that's a good stepping stone.

''That's the biggest thing for us, trying to offer that pathway. We don't have the Nuggets yet, but this game's a good stepping stone.''

The game will be played on court seven at the Edgar Centre, with other bookings already in place in the arena. However, temporary seating which would fit 400-plus people would be put around the court.

The court also had a good quality backboards and hoops.

Ludlow was unsure who would play for the Sharks - the availability of centre Alex Pledger will be dependent on whether the Breakers made the playoffs. He was also unsure whether the side's imports would be in action.

Otago men's and women's sides will go to the Hoop Nation event at the end of the year.

-By Jeff Cheshire

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