NZNBL 18IN18 team preview: Waikato Wizards

THE next team in focus is Waikato Wizards who are preparing for the upcoming New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Sal’s NBL 18IN18 competition which will see a fast paced, action packed 18 days of basketball action. Community Basketball Manager for the Wizards, Anthony Corban shed some light on what preparation has been like and what it means for the side to actually take the court in 2020.

With a relatively new format seeing teams fly in and fly out of venues on a tight turn around, Corban has commended Basketball New Zealand’s overall efforts to get the season up and running and ability to overcome the logistics to ensure a women’s season became a reality rather than a dream.

“The NZ NBL and Basketball New Zealand has to be commended for making a women’s NBL happen in 2020,” he said. “Many thought it was in the too hard basket. “But a committed staff and board at BBNZ, along with great team representatives have made this happen. “Any opportunity to promote women’s basketball is fantastic.”

Boasting a young core group of players, Corban is simply excited to see what they can produce throughout the competition. He also made mention of a couple of key players expected to light up the court for the Wizards. One name that stood out in particular was that of Tall Fern Matangiroa (Pep) Flavell who impressed throughout 2019 albeit in different colours but will be a valuable addition to the Wizards.

“We are a young group this year, so just looking forward to getting them on the court and competing,” he said. “We have some really exciting guards in our team. Kayla Manuirirangi, Pep Flavell, Alyssa Hirawani are three guards that will excite.”

“We have the best age group women’s programme here in New Zealand so look out for the young contenders Jay Waihi, Breeje Schuler and Alana Paewai,” Corban stated. “We’ve also managed to strengthen our forward line-up with Maka Daysh in our group. As traditionally we have played small ball.”

Given the number of guards in the team it is no surprise that the Wizards overall game style will focus on them and using every inch of space out on court to create continuous forward forays and open up avenues to the basket. In saying that however, Corban also mentioned that they will not be a one trick-pony and have a couple of tricks up their sleeves to keep their opponents guessing.

“Traditionally we have played a guard orientated style of basketball. “Using the width of the court and creating space for others. “We will be doing that and also utilising the strength of our forward line up. “Game scouts will see our style vary each game,” he said.

It has been an unconventional and unprecedented year to say the least which has filtered into the sports world, with Corban labelling the year as “tough” however through adversity comes opportunity something that Community Basketball Manager noted in regards to building the squad for the upcoming season.

“We have lost six of our squad to USA Colleges. (It) has meant a change in coaching and training techniques. However it presents our 17 & Under players with an opportunity to step up and play alongside our veterans,” Corban said.

When asked about their main intention for the season the obvious answer was to make it to the semi-finals however, Corban also had a few other factors in mind – most importantly the notion to support women’s basketball and continue the sports growth in New Zealand.

“Support this league and provide a good spectacle for women’s basketball. We are like most of the other teams a little under prepared due to the 2020 COVID  issues however we will make the most of this,” he said. “A semi-final appearance is the intention of every team.”

Waikato Wizards kick off the season on Thursday 19 against Auckland Dream at 7:30pm (local time).

Roster

Matangiroa Flavell
Ari Parai
Kelcy Ballantyne
Courtney Wilson
Natasha Lenden
Reese Anderson

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