It is often difficult to gauge form during pre-season. Coaches tend to juggle their rosters, experimenting with combinations and manage the workload of senior players.
Sky City Breakers Coach Dean Vickerman will be wishing to build on the mixed form his team displayed at the NBL Blitz in Brisbane last weekend.
The Breakers recorded a 96-84 victory against the Adelaide 36ers in their opening game but were comprehensively beaten 91-64 by tournament winners Townsville Crocodiles in their second game.
It will be interesting to see how the frontcourt shapes during the south island trip next week.
For contrasting reasons the workload of Mika Vukona and Alex Pledger will need to be managed carefully.
Pledger is making his way back to full fitness after enduring a frustrating last nine months. A series of injuries first of all cut short his last ANBL season (he didn’t play from mid December onwards) and then removed him from the Tall Blacks programme when he picked up a toe injury during the second home international against South Korea. By my reckoning he has played three and a half competitive games in nine months so will need to ease into his work.
On the other hand Mika Vukona has been playing virtually non stop for twelve months and may benefit from rest rather than court time next week – although try telling that to the Breakers reigning MVP.
He played every game for the Breakers last season, sandwiched a month in Lebanon during his New Zealand league commitments with the Nelson Giants and was then a standout during the Tall Blacks international campaign.
The two frontcourt newcomers both showed promise in Brisbane and will be keen to press for extended court time against the Sydney Kings next week.
Power forward Tai Wesley has joined the club after impressing Breakers assistant coach Paul Henare during his time at Southland Sharks during the NBL season. Wesley averaged 16 points and 9 rebounds in his eight games for the Sharks and will be the back up to Vukona in the upcoming season.
Ekene Ibekwe replaces Gary Wilkinson in the second import spot and is challenging Pledger for the starting centre spot. The 2.06m Nigerian international fouled out in just 11 minutes in the first game at the Blitz but fared much better in game two when he posted a double double in almost 27 minutes on court. We can also expect Ibekwe to challenge Pledger in the leading shot blocker stakes.
In addition to the above talent the Breakers can also call on the services of a couple of young Tall Blacks forwards. Tai Wynyard and Jordan Ngatai are amongst the five Development Players on the Breakers books this season and both, particularly Wynyard, could expect to see court time this season.