On the face of it the SKY CITY Breakers Development Player selections for the 2013-2014 ANBL season are a little contentious.
The selection of Jack Salt is no surprise given his rise to prominence in the past twelve months and also given that we have very few talented 6’10” players in New Zealand. The other three selections, Alonzo Burton, Duane Bailey and Luuk Witteveen will be causing some debate in basketball circles.
Dean Vickerman and his fellow coaches have a fine balance to tread when making their selections. Firstly they require at least a couple of athletes capable of playing in the NBL should contracted players get injured (Hudson, Webster, Henry and Pledger all missed games last season). They also want to select players they can mould into successful NBL players in the future, players who may not be ready right now but they feel can make the necessary progress during their time with the club (they have done this with Reuben Te Rangi, Tom Abercrombie and Corey Webster). Thirdly they want to assist players bound for the US College system get better and also show these players that the SKY CITY Breakers are a viable professional option when they finish their university careers (this was the approach taken with Rob Loe, Tai Webster and Isaac Fotu). I also envisage that the “no dick heads” policy is also adhered to, a factor that would count against some young players currently plying their trade in the NZNBL and hoping to transition into the Breakers programme. Finally I imagine the coaches want to cover a range of positions therefore selecting two guards and two forwards seems the ideal move.
Jack Salt ticks virtually every box above and I haven’t heard anyone querying his selection.
Duane Bailey has three years NZNBL experience under his belt and can certainly hold his own physically should he be required to step on court this season. Although under sized for the Aussie League, Duane is probably the most skilled and experienced New Zealand forward in the under 23 age group and one the coaches are obviously willing to take a punt with, at least in the short term. Morgan Natanahira would almost certainly have retained this spot but for the cruel injury he incurred towards the end of the NZNBL season.
Alonzo Burton has been on the Breakers radar for sometime now and developing under the watchful eye of Paul Henare in the Hawkes Bay, prior to Paul’s move to Southland, would not have done his chances any harm. He would have been in a battle for a spot with the likes of Brad Anderson (Taranaki Mountain Airs), and Brooke Ruscoe (Nelson Giants) but the Breakers brains trust obviously feel Alonzo is a player capable of covering the two and three spots and having a lot of up sides in terms of attitude, athleticism and potential.
Luuk Witteveen is probably the most contentious pick, still at school he is one of a crop of young guards making their way in the game that come under the gaze of the Breakers coaches. Looking at the Breakers guards depth chart he probably doesn’t feature too high but on the under 19 chart he must be in top spot, or very close. Luuk may yet opt for a US College career in which case he may only spend one year as a development player. Should he forgo that option, then like Alonzo, he could be on the Breakers ‘books’ for multiple seasons and be groomed for greater things in three or four years time.
The Breakers coaching staff were impressed with the quantity, quality and attitude of the thirty players that attended the trials for these places earlier in the month. Much discussion and debate will have followed but at the end of the day only four places were on offer leaving twenty six athletes to ponder their futures and numerous coaches and amateur selectors to debate the decisions.