Plans to resurrect Otago Nuggets put on the backburner

Basketball might be the most popular sport at Otago secondary schools but attempts to breathe life into the defunct Otago Nuggets have fallen flat.

The Nuggets dropped out of the National Basketball League (NBL) following the 2014 season when Basketball Otago (BBO) ran into serious financial trouble.

The association narrowly avoided liquidation and its focus has been on rebuilding its finances and delivering community basketball.

However, resurrecting the NBL team remained on the agenda, but that appears to have changed.

The Nuggets have slipped back on the ''to do list'', with BBO general manager Justin Ludlow confirming the association has ''other priorities''.

''We'd love to have the opportunity but that opportunity would need to be at arm's length from BBO,'' Ludlow said.

''But we just aren't any further ahead than what we were a year ago. That is just where we sit, really. We are tied to our community game.''

One of the main arguments for reviving the Nuggets has been to keep that player pathway open. But Ludlow felt there were still plenty of opportunities for the region's best basketballers.

''From our end there is a commitment to make sure there is opportunities for our athletes and we are providing those opportunities through those good relationships we have with Southland and Canterbury basketball. And I think that is a good place for us to be at the moment.

''It would be a massive commitment in terms of rolling out a franchise again. At the moment, our commitment is solely on ensuring the community game is solid.

''We are certainly ambitious but we have a lot of other priorities that we want to ensure we are ticking off.''

The latest secondary school sports survey shows basketball is the most popular sport in Otago schools, with 1608 pupils playing the game. That is more than netball (1500) and rugby (1464) - the second and third most popular sports respectively.

But that growth at secondary school level has not been reflected in a stronger club competition, Ludlow said.

There are about 3500 registered club basketballers in Otago and those numbers have been static ''for years''.

''That is probably the biggest frustration at the moment. We have this massive, massive secondary school competition but a lot of them, to be honest, are playing at a social level.

''The challenge is to try to transition some of those kids over to club basketball. That has always been quite challenging and most sports are finding that.''

Where BBO has experienced growth is in the social leagues.

''We are going from a three-season social league - where we play summer, winter and spring - to this year where we are playing four seasons because we have increased participation at the social level.

''That is where the growth is and that is where it is nationally as well.''

BBO has also highlighted coaching and referee development as ''two really crucial areas where we can help the game''.

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