Basketball: Injury-hit Rams tipped to struggle in new league

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Looking through the national basketball league squads, it is difficult to pick a winner.

Six months ago that would have been a strange thing to say. The league has, for many years, had a clear-cut top two or three.

Not this season, which begins at 5.30pm tonight with two games in Auckland, where all games will be played.

The league has been overhauled to account for the impacts of Covid-19.

A draft has spread the talent relatively evenly.

But it is only the Canterbury Rams that may potentially struggle.

After initially looking strong, they were dealt a blow, losing Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green - two of their top three picks - to injury.

Across the competition some big names are also missing, as are imports and notably the top three teams from last year.

The result is more Kiwi players getting an opportunity to play in what should be an even league.

On every team there are known stars, along with others who have potential to be major threats.

Those who fulfil that potential are the ones who will do the best.

Nuggets player Jordan Ngatai models the new Nuggets uniform. When they return tomorrow night...
Nuggets player Jordan Ngatai models the new Nuggets uniform. When they return tomorrow night against the Manawatu Jets, they will be wearing a new strip, designed by Paul Sides of Better Creative in Dunedin, of mainly blue. The singlet has a yellow feature at the top. It has been made by uniform supplier Gilbert. PHOTO: PHOTOSPORT

The Otago Nuggets picked up potentially the league’s two top players in Jordan Ngatai and Jarrod Kenny in the draft.

How well its younger players complement them will dictate how far they go.

The Manawatu Jets also used the draft well and have put together a strong team.

Tom Vodanovich, Hyrum Harris and Taane Samuel give them a talented front line. They will rebound aggressively and are capable scoring threats.

In the guards, Jayden Bezzant is a potential quality signing who has returned after a successful time playing division two college basketball in the United States.

The Auckland Huskies have arguably the toughest match-up in the league in mobile big man Tohi Smith-Milner. A 206cm forward who also plays for Melbourne United, he is a strong all-round threat who will be tough to contain.

Veteran swingman Leon Henry provides scoring, but it will be the guards who determine how well this team goes.

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa returns from college and has potential to be a star, while schoolboy Taine Murray could also emerge as a top player.

The new Franklin Bulls look to have the strongest inside presence with duo Sam Timmins and Dominique Kelman-Poto.

Timmins, who is from Dunedin, returns after four years of high-level college basketball and could be the league’s best inside big man.

Kelman-Poto shone for the Southland Sharks last year and may be poised to take another step.

The Nelson Giants are similarly strong inside with duo Mika Vukona and Mike Karena.

They are joined by athletic guard Dane Brooks to form a handy trio.

The Taranaki Mountainairs will get plenty of scoring out of duo Derone Raukawa and Marcel Jones.

They also have a useful pair of big men in Shane Temara and Tai Wynyard.

All teams will play each other twice, before playoffs which conclude on August 1.

The Nuggets open their campaign against the Manawatu Jets tomorrow.

 

 

 

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