Category Archives: NZ Breakers

Alex Pledger logs 200th game for Breakers

 

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On Friday night in Cairns Alex Pledger will turn out for the 200th time in a Breakers uniform. He will become just the fifth Breaker to reach that mark behind Mika Vukona (315), Paul Henare (250), Tom Abercrombie (241) and Dillon Boucher (220).

Pledger says it is quite ironic that he plays his 200th game against the Taipans, “My 100th and 150th games were both against the Taipans, and it’s a bit of a strange coincidence that the 200th is against them as well.”

Now in his eighth season with the club – he debuted as a development player against Melbourne Tigers in October 2009 – Pledger has played on all four SKYCITY Breakers championship winning teams.

He missed the second half of the 2013-2014 season due to injury but either side of that he has been remarkably resilient missing just 5 of the Breakers 178 games in that time.

“I didn’t think I would get to this in the last couple of years but I’m pretty proud to get to that number and the body is feeling pretty good at the moment so hopefully I can go on and get a few more,” said Pledger.

He was the NBL’s leading shot blocker in 2012/13 (46 at 1.5bpg) and rebounder (227 at 7.3rpg). He also had his most productive scoring season, notching 331 points at 10.7 per outing.

This season he leads the NBL in field goal shooting percentages – 64.8% (75/116), is third on the shot blocking list (26 at 1.4pg) and 7th in rebounding (121 at 6.7pg).

Breakers head coach Paul Henare believes there is plenty more to come from his centre.

“He is only 29 and and big guys come into their prime in their late twenties early thirties so I think we will see further improvements in Alex’s game over the coming seasons.”

Pledger by Numbers

2009 – 2017 New Zealand Breakers

Appearances 199 – 5th all-time

Blocks 218 – First all-time

Rebounds 1,080 – 3rd all-time

Points 1,509 – 8th all-time

Double doubles 16 – 4th all-time

Wins 136 – 3rd all-time

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Double delight for Alex Pledger

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It has been a while coming but Breakers centre Alex Pledger is beginning to show the dominant form he displayed three or four seasons ago.

In season 2012/13 Pledger was a colossus as he averaged 10.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 rebounds per game playing a large part in the Breakers completing their third straight NBL championship win.

His numbers were equally good (10.0ppg, 7.4rpg and 1.6 blocks per game) in early 2013/14 but unfortunately his season came to an abrupt end 13 games into that disappointing campaign as injury sidelined the 2.16m defensive anchor.

Pledger has spent the last two seasons carrying various niggling injuries and his numbers have suffered accordingly averaging 6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks across 61 games.

The big man looked in great touch at the weekend, securing a brace of double doubles as the Breakers completed a tough weekend with a brace of W’s.

In Melbourne on Friday Pledger led all scorers with 20 points and snared 10 rebounds as United were beaten in overtime 98-92.

Less than 48 hours later he produced a balanced twelve rebounds and twelve points performance. He also came up with three blocks in addition to influencing the shots (or lack of them) taken by key Brisbane big men Bairstow and Kickert who were a combined 2 from 17.

Executing back to back double doubles for just the fourth time in his NBL career Pledger passed a couple of notable milestones over the weekend.

In Melbourne he took his total career rebound count to exactly 1,000 becoming just the third Breaker to record 1,000 rebounds for club after Vukona (2,054) and Abercrombie (1,061).

Then on Sunday at Vector Arena, with those three swats, he became the first Breaker to record 200 career blocked shots.

188 games into his Breakers career perhaps the best is yet to come from Alex Pledger.

Henare to bring up 350 for Breakers

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Paul Henare first stepped onto the court in a Breakers uniform for the club’s innaugural NBL encounter against Adelaide 36ers in Octber 2003. The fiesty point guard turned coach has been with the club for all but two of the fourteen seasons the Breakers have existed.

On Sunday he will make his 350th appearance in Breakers colours when he leads his charges at Vector Arena against Brisbane Bullets.

As a player Henare was the first Breaker to have his singlet retired following the club’s first Championship win in 2011. He appeared in 250 games over an eight season playing career with the club and holds the all time record for most assists. His mark of 902 is likely to stand for a considerable length of time.

He returned to the club in 2013, after just two seasons transitioning from player to coach in the New Zealand NBL. As assistant coach to Dean Vickerman he helped the club to a fourth title the following season and logged 92 appearances alongside his good friend during their three-year partnership.

When Vickerman left for the Sydney Kings this year Henare stepped into the hot seat and on Sunday will make his eighth appearance at the helm of the four times NBL champions.

It’s fitting that Sunday’s game is against Brisbane. The Bullets are led by Andrej Lemanis – the three times championship winning coach spent eight years in charge at the Breakers.

That is a tenure Henare would love to emulate.

Tait and Nelson Street prove too strong for Breakers D squad

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Jordan Ngatai led the Breakers scoring

The Breakers Development team ran into a road jam that was 68A Nelson Street in the fourth quarter of the opening game of the 2016 Mexicali Fresh Summer Jam. The Breakers led 76-75 entering the final period but could only muster 15 points in the final ten minutes going down 100-91.

Earlier Jordan Ngatai, the only senior player in the Breakers lineup, scored the first five points for the hosts as they opened an early lead. Lindsay Tait and Marco Alexander began finding holes in the Breakers defence and a typical Tait drive tied the scored at 18 apiece.

Ngatai and Dan Fotu drew fouls late in the period to work their way to the foul line and take Breakers to a 32-22 quarter time lead.

Linus Jakzst in transition and Dillon Boucher in the paint reduced the Breakers advantage. Cruz Perrot-Hunt landed a three but Liam Thornton responded with a trey of his own for Nelson St.

A couple of Hyrum Harris buckets reduced the lead to 41-39 before Waardenburg provided a highlight dunk down the lane.

Tyler Kerlin tied the scores at 45 apiece, Boucher taking Nelson St ahead for the first time in the game although a James Moors bucket gave Breakers a 50-49 half-time lead.

Nelson St opened the second with an 8-0 run – six of them to Jakzst -before Letoa initiated a response from the Breakers.

The Westlake point guard began a threes barrage as he and Thomas Whyte landed from long range for Breakers and Daniel Green and Tait did likewise for Nelson St.

A couple of Fotu baskets edged Breakers to that single figure three-quarter lead before the Nelson St outfit took command in the final period – Thornton and Jakzst combining well with their more experienced colleagues to seal the win.

Final score:

68A Nelson Street 100 – Tait 23, Alexander 18, Thornton 16, Jakzst 14, Harris 10

Breakers Development 91 – Ngatai 22, Waardenburg 18, Fotu 16, Letoa 14, Perrott-Hunt 7, Cam Stone 7

Vukona closes in on 300th Breakers appearance

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Mika Vukona will become the first SKYCITY Breakers player to appear in 300 games for the club when he takes the floor against Sydney Kings at North Shore Events Centre on Thursday night.

In his usual unassuming fashion, come Thursday, he will be on the court before the game announcer has reached the second syllable of his name. There will be no pausing or hand waving to acknowledge the applause – it will be game time and that means business for the club’s talisman.

However he did take time out after team training on Monday to reflect on the milestone and his 12 seasons with the Breakers.

“I’m in a good place. The organization has enabled me to get to the 300 games and it’s been an enjoyable time. When you are in a good environment, a good family situation, you always want to be there. There are times when it’s hard but it is just awesome to come back here. I guess winning makes a massive difference. When you win championships you just want to come back and keep getting more.”

Vukona has a particular attachment to a number of the people he began his journey with. “Dillon (Boucher), Pauli (Henare), Paul Blackwell, the Blackwell family. All those guys have influenced everything that I have done in those 300 games, its pretty massive,” he said.

He remembers his first game fondly, “It was the first game the Breakers ever played, I was a development player and I had the opportunity to come on in garbage time and it was awesome. The first time to come on as a young player and the house was rocking, it was good.”

For the record Vukona, just 21 at the time, scored a couple of points as the Breakers won that inaugural game 111-110 against Adelaide 36ers.

When quizzed on his favourite moment(s) with the club it’s the first championship with the Breakers that comes readily to mind.

“The 2011 championship. Going through the things that we had to get over, the trip to Perth, coming back, we had injuries that we had been going through. We had an amazing time that whole year and to cap it off with Pauli being able to walk away after winning the championship was awesome.”

The 34 year old acknowledges he has to refine his game, as he gets older, “I’m just maturing a little bit better”, he quipped.

“I have to make adjustments because if I don’t you get left behind and with the league going up another couple of levels you have to do that. And even in trainings here the guys are getting younger and it is something that I have had to learn. But it also a thing keeps me going even more. It is another challenge, it is something that excites me and it is something that I want to keep driving for and keep proving myself. The day that I can’t and my body says no will be the time to walk away,” he added.

Fortunately for Breakers fans that time is likely to be some way away, “I’m looking forward to many more appearances,” the 5 times NBL champion declared.

Perhaps not what opposition players want to hear.

Below are the Mika numbers for the Breakers but unfortunately there are no records kept of the loose balls garnered, box outs completed, defensive deflections produced and athletic rebounds he had no right to secure.

299 – Most Games Played

161 -Most consecutive games played (2010-2015)

171 – Most Wins by a Breakers player

2,034 – Most rebounds

36 Double doubles – 2nd all time for Breakers

2239 Points – 3rd a/t

213 steals – 3rd a/t

550 assists – 4th a/t

91 blocks – 4th a/t

Thoughts from Henare and Demopolous after Breakers beat Melbourne

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From Murray McKinnon

The Breakers shrugged off the pre-season blues to capture an early season scalp in beating Melbourne United 76-71.

The Breakers led 17-16 at the end of the first quarter and then went on a three point shooting spree courtesy of Corey Webster, Tom Abercrombie and newcomers Robert Loe and Ben Woodside. The ‘Chief’ made a couple of mid range jumpers to give the local team a 40-31 advantage going into the second half.

The third quarter was all Melbourne with former Breakers Cedric Jackson and Tai Wesley scoring inside and out. David Andersen and Ramone Moore also slotted in three pointers to put Melbourne ahead 52-48.

The Breakers responded in the final ten minutes in front of a crowd of 5639. Outstanding defensive work from Rob Loe and Akil Mitchell plus offensive output from Kirk Penny and Webster fuelled a 15 point Breakers run. However Wesley and Chris Goulding hit back to bring Melbourne within three points with less than two minutes remaining.

Melbourne desperate for possession and time their enemy were forced to foul sending Abercrombie, Mika Vukona and Woodside to the free throw line which converted into the Breakers final nine points and hold United at bay.

Paul Henare was pleased with the victory in his first time up as head coach in the Australian NBL.
“I’m really happy with the result, good to see all the guys on the floor and seeing the chemistry start to build. It is one game out of 28 and we’re going to enjoy it and move on,” said Henare.

“We didn’t play anyone over 30 minutes everyone got a decent hit out, the bigs worked extremely well together we’ve got four really good bigs there that we just keep rolling them in and you have confidence that they come in and do the job.”

Henare was not put off facing Melbourne in their first game on the season.
“Our belief in ourselves never wavered we knew we were facing a very good side and we knew we had to play some very good basketball to beat them and that’s what I’m proud of.”

The newcomers slotted in well in their debuts for the team.

“Rob Loe, he’s smart he knows the game he knows who he is as a player and you develop a level of trust because you just know what you are going to get out of Robbie and tonight he played out of his skin he was physical inside he battled on the boards and when he was on the floor the score was going the right way,” said Henare.

American point guard Woodside said that he has moulded well into the team.
“Adapting into the game is pretty simple when you have been playing basketball your whole life and for me it’s been smooth and I’ve really enjoyed it so far,” he said.

He also enjoyed his match up with Jackson, “He’s a great player and you’ve got to respect a guy like that who’s a winner and it’s great to go against a player like that.”

Jackson on the other had said it was weird playing against the Breakers for the first time.
“It was pretty weird, but as soon as the jump ball came up I just focussed and tried to get rolling.
“This game was a good learning lesson for us as a new group and we took a lot of positives out of this game, just minor tune-ups and I think we’ll be alright,” said Jackson.

Melbourne coach Dean Demopolous knows what it is like to lose at Vector Arena ( going down 78-91 to the Breakers seven months ago in last season’s semi-final).

“New Zealand played a hell of a game tonight and I thought we played well also, somebody’s got to lose it’s us tonight and hopefully on Sunday (United entertain Adelaide) it’s the other team,” said Demopolous.

“We lost, but I think we are going to be a very good team. It’s a work in progress, I’ve got a bunch of new faces, but I love our energy and I’ve loved it for a long time.”

Demopolous was pleased with his two former Breakers players Ced and Tai.
“They’ve been terrific, great attitudes, they work hard every day, they come early, stay late, they’re men not kids and I respect them and value their opinions and judgement on things especially their play. As they assimilate into this group as David Anderson is and Ramone Moore I see a lot of good things happening for Melbourne United.”

Abercrombie top scored for the Breakers with 14, Vukona had 12 and Webster 11. Wesley led the scorers for Melbourne with 15 (in just 14 minutes), Jackson was on 14 and Moore, Andersen and Goulding all contributed nine points.

Breakers go down to Bullets in Tauranga

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Akil Mitchell impressed on Breakers debut

The SKYCITY Breakers began their three game pre-season tour with an 80-70 loss against the Brisbane Bullets last night in front of an enthusiastic crowd of close to 3,000 at ASB Arena.

Much interest focused on the performances of new American imports Ben Woodside and Akil Mitchell and both exhibited moments of class.

Woodside (7 points/4rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals), as expected with his Europen experience, look a fine distributor and facilitator whilst also posessing the capacity to knock down the open shot.

With Loe and Vukona in foul trouble Mitchell played more minutes than perhaps anticipated demonstrating athletic capability on defence, speed in transition and a nice touch around the hoop. The man from North Carolina led the Breakers scoring with 15 points, 2 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals.

The Breakers began the game with a predictable lineup of Woodside, Corey Webster, Tom Abercrombie, Mika Vukona and Rob Loe.

An Abercrombie three started the score rolling for the Breakers who trailed narrowly, 24-23 at quarter time.

Scoring slowed in the second period but with 8 points from Webster and 6 apiece from Abercrombie, Loe and Vukona the scores were locked 37 apiece at half-time.

A highlight of the half was Brisbane swingman Torrey Craig leaping over the scorebench officials in an attempt to execute an intercept.

The Breakers suffered a blow early in the second half when centre Rob Loe had to sit down after picking up his fourth foul. With Vukona also in foul trouble it was left to rookie Finn Delany and new man Mitchell to battle the experienced Brisbane front court.

Despite three points and a shuddering block from Mitchell the Breakers found themselves trailing 57-45 with three minutes remaining in the period and needing a timeout.

A trio of free throws from Isaih Tueta, another basket from Mitchell, and Webster in transition, the deficit was reduced to 59-52 at three-quarter time.

Four minutes into the final quarter the Brisbane lead was twelve points, 68-56.

Despite an And 1 play from Woodside and a triple from Webster the visitors still held sway, 75-65, as Vukona fouled out with three minutes to play.

Mitchell demonstrated he is a fine addition to the Breakers roster with two late baskets but the Bullets lead was never threatened as they eased to a ten point win.

The two teams will meet again in Napier on Thursday needing to address the rebounding count (39-25 in favour of Brisbane) and the perimeter shooting (6 from 28 at 21%). The third and final hit out is in Invercargill on Saturday.

Final Score:

Breakers 70 – Mitchell 15/3 blocks/ 2 steals, Webster 13, Abercrombie 11, Tueta 8, Woodside 7/ 4 assists/3 steals, Loe 7/7 rebs/3 blocks,

Brisbane 80 – Craig 20, Young 12, Jervis 12, Petrie 10

Akil Mitchell completes Breakers roster

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AMERICAN IMPORT WILL ENTERTAIN SAYS BREAKERS HEAD COACH

 Excitement is building at Atlas Place as the SKYCITY Breakers today announced the final piece of their 2016/17 roster jigsaw with the signing of American/Panamanian Akil Mitchell, the 11th and final fulltime roster player for the upcoming campaign.

 The 206cm (6’9”) tall 24 year old is a native of Charlotte North Carolina and comes to the Breakers following a stellar College career at Virginia, working with respected Head Coach and former North Harbour player and coach Tony Bennett, a two time winner of the prestigious Henry Iba Award for the nation’s top coach as voted by the USBWA.

 Mitchell played a key role at Virginia and helped them to regular season and ACC Tournament Championships in 2014, in the process being named to the ACC All-Defensive team and second All ACC Tournament Team.

 SKYCITY Breakers Head Coach Paul Henare likes what the scouting reports say and is even more convinced knowing that Mitchell has worked so closely with Bennett.

 “Akil had a four-year career at Virginia and has two years’ experience playing professionally. His time under Tony Bennett – who has a great connection with New Zealand, would’ve prepared him well for a long and successful career. One of the things that impressed me most was his willingness to learn and do whatever it takes for the team to win.

 “Through watching tape and talking to our US scout Jonathan Givony, I knew we were getting someone that can guard 1-5 if needed which gives us some great flexibility when it comes to our defence. Offensively he will bring a great energy and with his athleticism, will be a crowd favourite I’m sure.”

 Undrafted in 2014, Mitchell has since spent time with the Houston Rockets (NBA Summer League), Rio Grande Valley Vipers (NBA Development League), the Brooklyn Nets (2015 NBA Summer League) before heading to France with Olympique Antibes for the 2015/16 season. In 49 games for the Vipers he averaged 9.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 steal per game.

 Mitchell spoke at his arrival press conference just hours after landing in New Zealand.

 “I am super excited to be here, this is a good league with a lot of good players coming through. It is a good stepping stone for me in my career and a great opportunity to win some games. From what I have heard it is a great country and I am looking forward to it.

 “We were just in a room with all the championship trophies, I know this is a family orientated programme from ownership down, it is about family. I am looking forward to being a part of that, a team that wants to win and expects to win but is based on those great values.”

 The entire roster begins training from Thursday at Atlas Place, with the first chance for fans to see the team in action coming during the pre-season series against Brisbane Bullets in Tauranga (September 13), Napier (September 15) and Invercargill (September 17).

 The season gets underway with a mouthwatering clash against Melbourne United featuring Cedric Jackson and Tai Wesley on October 7 at Vector Arena

 CLICK HERE for a University of Virginia profile on Akil Mitchell

 Akil Mitchell Bio

Born: June 26, 1992 (age 24)

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Nationality: American / Panamanian

Height: 6’ 9” (2.06 m)

Weight: 230 lb (104 kg)

Career information

High school: Charlotte Christian School, (Charlotte, North Carolina)

College: Virginia (2010–2014)

Playing career

2014–2015: Rio Grande Valley Vipers

2015–2016: Olympique Antibes

Career highlights and awards

ACC All-Defensive team (2014)

Breakers announce D Squad

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Derone Raukawa

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.”

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Ethan Rusbatch

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)

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Sam Waardenburg

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

Development players

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;

Coaches

Paul Henare, NZL, Head Coach

Judd Flavell, NZL, Assistant Coach

Michael Fitchett, NZL, Assistant Coach

Isaac Leto the latest guard off the Westlake production line

 

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In the past two years New Zealand basketball has witnessed the emergence of two young point guards on the international stage. Tai Webster shot to prominence at the 2014 FIBA World Championships in Spain and Shea Ili, after making his international debut in 2015 played a significant part in the recent Tall Blacks Olympic Qualifying campaign.

Just bubbling under but definitely on the Tall Blacks radar for the future is Isaac Letoa.

Similar to Webster and Ili, Letoa is extremely athletic, blessed with good foot speed and possesses the ability to attack the basket.

Like Webster, he also hails from the North Shore basketball factory otherwise known as Westlake Boys High School.

Letoa moved to Auckland from Wellington in 2013 and has been a member of the Westlake premier team for the past 3 years.

He has also been a member of the Breakers Academy for the same length of time.

SKYCITY Breakers assistant coach and head coach of the Academy Mike Fitchett is in no doubt what qualities Letoa has that set him apart from most young players in New Zealand.

“Isaac has great defensive ability, plays with intensity and has a terrific work ethic,” says Fitchett.

“He has the capacity to stay in front of quick ball handlers and demonstrates great commitment on defence which you don’t see from a lot of young players. He also has the ability to penetrate at the offensive end and his perimeter shooting is improving,” added Fitchett.

Last month he was one of three Kiwis invited to attend the prestigious adidas Nations tournament in Los Angeles.

Over four days 80 of the top under 18 players from around the world had the opportunity to hone their skills under the guidance of elite coaches. A mix of skill and development drills and scrimmages took place (July 29-Aug 1) culminating in the championship game being broadcast live on ESPNU.

Letoa, along with Sam Waardenburg (Rangitoto College) and Quinn Clinton (Christchurch Boys High School) received invitations from ex NBA player Randy Livingston coach of Team Asia Pacific to attend the camp.

Letoa started every game for the Asia Pacific team and relished the opportunity to test himself against elite young athletes from around the world, particularly the young American players.

“All the players were quick but you expect that and need to adapt your game,” said Letoa.

The Westlake team captain, who turned 18 the day after the camp, loved the experience and was happy with how he performed earning a starting spot in every game.

“I learnt that every possession is vital and every opportunity has to be taken. It was a crazy experience.”

Letoa once again had an opportunity to benchmark his skill set against international opponents last Saturday playing alongside Ili and Tai Wynyard for the SKYCITY Breakers against the visiting American team Athletes in Action.

AIA are made up of players in their early twenties that have recently graduated from American college programmes or are in their senior years.

Letoa produced a composed performance backing up Ili at point guard scoring 11 points in the 97-78 loss but demonstrated the qualities Fitchett talked about.

Fellow Breakers coach Judd Flavell who has helped oversee Letoa’s development for the last three years also believes the 18 year old has a very good basketball career in front of him.

“It is refreshing to see a young guard with good court vision and passing ability. He has a high basketball IQ and reads the game very well.”

“Isaac is a fine person, has good discipline and works hard, these are attributes that his parents (Fata and Paula) can take a lot of credit for.”

In the future Letoa wants to join the long list of ex Westlake High School and Breakers Academy players to have played for the Tall Blacks but right now his goals are clear.

“My ambition is to gain a basketball scholarship to attend university in the USA. I want to study product design but I will have to wait and see what transpires in terms of subject choice,” said Letoa.

He will wait until he finishes this academic year at Westlake before deciding which university to attend. Flavell and Fitchett believe he will have plenty of options.