The SKYCITY Breakers today confirmed three players signed to development player positions for the new season with Ethan Rusbatch (Canterbury), Derone Raukawa (Southland) and Sam Waardenburg (Harbour) all committing to the club for the new season, just as the club commits to them and their ongoing development on and off court.
Rusbatch and Raukawa have impressed at domestic and national team level this year, with both selected for the Tall Blacks recent Olympic qualifying campaign on the back of strong NBL campaigns with Canterbury and Southland respectively, while 17 year old Waardenburg has had a busy year of international commitments that he hopes will culminate in selection for the Junior Tall Blacks and their Oceania Championship in Fiji this coming December.
SKYCITY Breakers head coach Paul Henare says selecting development players is never easy, such is the talent available in New Zealand.
“This year’s D-Unit have come from differing pathways. Derone was an Academy player and has since been playing well in the New Zealand NBL. Ethan was born and raised in Christchurch and has spent the majority of his time plying his trade in Canterbury while Sam has taken the more traditional route of coming straight from our Academy into a development spot.
“All three guys bring their own style and flare to the team but they have some tough work ahead. Last year’s D-Unit are now rostered players and they’ve set a new standard in terms of what it means to be part of the D-Unit. I look forward to seeing this year’s group take on that challenge.”
Rusbatch and Raukawa are on fulltime development player contracts and are available for selection to the roster throughout the season, while Rangitoto College student Waardenburg has clear restrictions around his availability in order to protect his amateur status before pursuing scholarship opportunities in the United States next year.
The opportunity for the players to further their careers is highlighted from within the current fulltime roster, with no less than seven players currently signed to the club having come through the development pathway. Notably all three of last season’s development players have graduated to the fulltime roster, with Finn Delany, Shea Ili and Jordan Ngatai all progressing to the point where a fulltime opportunity was offered and accepted.
“We love winning Championships and want to win more, but we see ourselves also as a development club,” says General Manager Dillon Boucher. “We are in the business of developing players, coaches and administrators to become better at their jobs and in their careers. For some that means a progression on to our fulltime roster and potentially a long career as a Breaker, as we see with so many of our current team.
“For others though we are proud to have played a role in nurturing and developing their basketball and life skills to set them up for a shot at the pro ranks overseas. We are delighted to present that opportunity to Ethan, Derone and Sam for the coming season.”
21 year old Raukawa has to pinch himself as he considers a year of doors opening in his career, first with the Tall Blacks, and now with the Breakers.
“I am stoked to have this opportunity. It feels like it has been snowballing with the chances I am getting and I am thankful to be getting them. I know most of the guys in the team pretty well and know it is a great environment, I can’t wait to get in there and work hard.”
Rusbatch is equally enthused about the opportunity.
“I am looking forward to the next six months, not only to be training at a higher level but to have coaches and trainers around me all the time, helping me to push my game to new levels. I have worked with Pauli with the Tall Blacks and enjoyed that so know what I will be going into and can’t wait to pick his brains and those of the other coaches.
“Having so many talented and established players in my position is going to be great for me to learn from them and to compete with them on a daily basis is going to be super good for me. I am looking forward to all the challenges ahead.”
All that remains now is for the Breakers to confirm their final import spot in the 11 man fulltime roster, with news on this front expected early next week at the club’s North Shore headquarters.
The trio will join the team for pre-season training from September 1st and be involved to varying degrees in the club’s pre-season tour against the Brisbane Bullets, with games in Tauranga (September 13), Napier (15th) and Invercargill (17th)
SKYCITY Breakers 2016/17 Roster (one to be added)
Ben Woodside, USA, Point Guard, 1.80m (5ft 11in) 84kg
Shea Ili, Point Guard, NZL, 1.82m (6ft) 85kg
Corey Webster, Guard, NZL, 1.87m (6ft 2in) 86kg
Kirk Penney, Guard, NZL, 1.95m (6ft 5in) 99kg
Tom Abercrombie, NZL, Swingman, 1.98m (6ft 6in) 94 kg
Jordan Ngatai, NZL, Swingman, 1.95m (6ft 5in) 105kg
Mika Vukona, NZL, Forward, 1.98m (6ft 6in) 105kg
Finn Delany, NZL, Forward, 2.0m (6ft 7in) 102 kg
Rob Loe, NZL, Forward, 2.10m (6ft 11in) 111kg
Alex Pledger, NZL, Centre, 2.13 m (7ft) 111kg
Ethan Rusbatch, Canterbury Rams (NBL), Guard, NZL, 196cm, 23 years;
Derone Raukawa, Southland Sharks (NBL), Guard, NZL, 181cm, 21 years;
Samuel Waardenburg, North Harbour Basketball/Rangitoto College, Forward, NZL, 208cm, 17 years;
Paul Henare, NZL, Head Coach
Judd Flavell, NZL, Assistant Coach
Michael Fitchett, NZL, Assistant Coach