Canterbury Wildcats showing their claws

Deanna Kuzmanic

A week after announcing that 2019 All-Star Five forward Marita Davydova is returning to the club the Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats have unveiled American-Puerto Rican player Deanna Kuzmanic as their second import signing for the 2020 season.

The Wildcats finished fourth in last season’s Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) but with the revamped league to be known as the Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) the Wildcats are signalling that a spot on the winners podium is a more desired destination  in 2020.

The Wildcats were WBC champions in 2016 and 2017 and with new coach Dene Robinson at the helm the club will be looking for further glory this year.

“We are very happy to have signed Deanna,” said Robinson.

“With the re-signing of Marita Davydova and the experience of our Kiwi players available from 2019 I feel the team will be very competitive in the 2020 Sal’s NBL,” added Robinson.

The 23 year-old Kuzmanic completed an outstanding four year career at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in 2019.

During her time playing NCAA Division I basketball for the UAB Blazers, Kuzmanic earned Conference USA All-Conference Team honours twice. The four-year starter played 128 career games, the most in school history. Kuzmanic finished her career with 1,536 points, ranking 11th in programme history.

In her senior year with the Blazers she averaged 12.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists shooting the three-ball at 41%. She is also an 80% shooter from the foul line.

The Wildcats have lacked a consistent perimeter scorer for the last couple of years but if Kuzmanic can provide some outside potency to compliment the inside weaponary of Davydova (14 points and a league high 14 rebounds per game in 2019) the Cantabrians will be a force to be reckoned with.

The Wildcats are yet to announce their local players but if the likes of Tessa Morrison, Tessa Boagni, Ajiah Pepe and Helen Matthews return they will be fun to watch.

Coach Robinson will also be hoping 2017 WBC MVP Fran Edmondson, who missed the whole of the 2019 season due to injury, will be restored to full health to further bolster the Wildcats front court artillery.

With her college career behind her Kuzmanic is looking forward to furthering her basketball experience in New Zealand.

“This will be my second professional contract since graduating from UAB. I played in Puerto Rico’s professional league for the Manati Atenienses in August-October 2019. In that league I was fortunate enough to be named Rookie of the Year and our team won the 2019 championship.

Also in 2019 Kuzmanic represented Puerto Rico at both the Pan American Games where they took home a bronze medal and also the FIBA Americup. She is looking forward to more international appearances next month.

“I am honoured to represent Puerto Rico and am very excited to represent them in February at the Olympic Qualifier in France.

“My mom is Puerto Rican although she was born and raised in the United States. However both of her parents, my grandma and grandpa, were born and raised in Puerto Rico and moved to the United States as young adults.”

Kuzmanic will link up with the Wildcats following her international commitments.

“I want to use my platform as a professional player to encourage others and positively impact lives, and I believe that is exactly what this team is all about. I am thrilled to be a Wildcat, and I look forward to competing and working hard on and off the court. I want to play my role to the best of my ability so that I can help put the team in a position to win,” enthused Kuzmanic.

Those words will be music to the ears of Robinson and the Wildcats management.

The 2020 Sal’s NBL season begins in May.


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