The Breakers, Brian Goorjian and Whispers

Dongguan Leopards coach Brian Goorjian brought up an interesting stat at a press conference in Auckland on Friday. To emphasise how big a deal basketball is in China he stated that there are more registered basketball players in China than there are people in America – wow! 

The Leopards play the Breakers, who have just confirmed a three year extension to their sponsorship agreement with Sky City, in three pre-season games next week. Goorjian, the winningest coach in NBL history still looks mean and lean and is sure to have the Leopards primed to give a good account of themselves in New Plymouth (Sunday), Hamilton (Tuesday) and at Vector Arena (Thursday).

Testimony to the Breakers prominent status on the New Zealand sporting landscape the game in Taranaki is sold out and sales for Vector Arena have already passed the 5000 mark. Not bad for preseason games.

The Breakers will take thirteen players on the road for the three encounters. Jack Salt and Luuk Witteveen will be at Secondary Schools Nationals but Alonzo Burton, Duane Bailey and Jarrod Kenny will join the ten contracted players and can expect to see some court time.

Good to see Alex Pledger moving freely at practice this week and taking a full part in training. He has had limited game time in recent months, coach Dean Vickerman optimistic that he will have a full team suited up on Sunday for just the second time this pre-season.

Australian John Rillie was spotted at New Zealand Under 17 and Breakers Academy trainings earlier in the week. Rillie had an underwhelming 12 game stint with the Breakers back in the 2009-2010 season but prior to that had been one of the best shooters ever to play in the NBL – a championship winner with the Adelaide 36ers back in 1998. These days Rillie is an assistant coach at Boise State University, Boise, Idaho. I wonder who he was having a look at? Tohi Smith-Milner? Tai Wynyard?

There are a few whispers emanating from some Canterbury folk that there could be a Christchurch based team competing in the 2014 NZNBL. If it happens it will be a great fillip for Canterbury basketball and good news for the league. Marty Davidson might have to put his climb up the refereeing ranks on hold and continue playing.

Hopefully there will be some CBL games in Auckland this side of Christmas. Talk is of a tournament style competition over alternate weekends in mid November and early December – watch this space for more news.

Finally, it’s always good to see players exhibiting enthusiasm for the game. Jordan Mills played in the Mexicali Fresh Summer Jam on Tuesday night at Youthtown in Auckland – that’s a fair old commute from Wellington for a single game of basketball. Mills turned out for his second game with The Birdmen, who boasted an array of NBL talent including fellow Wellington Saint Casey Frank, Josh Bloxham (Nelson Giants), Chris Fahrensohn and Johnny Fesolai (Super City Rangers). However they still went down to an Alonzo Burton inspired Block City Brawlers.

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