OTAGO Nuggets might be entering the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) for the first time since 2014, but it has not stopped the team already having a say on the 2020 Sal’s NBL Showdown proceedings. Head coach Brent Matehaere said he “couldn’t be happier” with the first week from his side, citing the improvement from his first win to his second, heading into week two with a 2-0 record.
“The improvements we made from game one to game two were really good,” he said. “Players are holding themselves accountable for their personal growth and they’re putting in the work through visualisation to make those improvements.”
Whilst both wins were equally impressive, it saw some very different performances, with Jarrod Kenny “carrying” the side to victory against the Jets with 28 points, before opting to share the rock in the second game.
“Jarrod is the consummate competitor and professional,” Matehaere said of Kenny. “After the game against a talented Jets side I commended him on his shooting performance and he said ‘I just wanted you to get your first win tonight’. “His performance carried us on that night and he did what he had to do to ensure victory, putting the ball in Jordan Ngatai’s hands for that three-ball was just another example of his basketball IQ.”
When asked if the remainder of the side benefited from the attention Kenny and Ngatai get from opposition defences, the coach said everyone had a role to play.
“It was certainly evident in the difference between their individual performances from game one to game two,” Matehaere said. “They were fluid in their play and while there are still adjustments to make there was a real felling of optimism for what is to come. “I am sure they will all make a positive impact in one way or another.”
The Nuggets might be 2-0 to start the season and well rested, but will need to be at their best for the week ahead, which features the other top two teams – Taranaki Mountainairs and Canterbury Rams – as well as the improving Franklin Bulls.
“All three of those teams provide serious challenges in the way that they play and their personnel,” Matehaere said. “I think the key focus for the Nuggets will be to continue to get better at what we want to do while being mindful of what is coming. “We’ve only been together now for 10 days and we’re still playing catch up but I am really happy with the cohesion we have developed and the positive culture between the players!”