Tag: nznbl

2021 NZNBL team review: Wellington Saints

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series concludes with Wellington Saints.


Position: 1st
Wins: 18
Losses: 2


Points: 96.2 (1st)
Rebounds: 36 (5th)
Assists: 17.8 (3rd)
Steals: 8.7 (1st)
Blocks: 3.7 (eq. 1st)
Field Goal %: 51.3 (1st)


Dion Prewster

The captain led from the front all season and put up team-highs in points (18.2) and assists (5.0) to be crowned the NZNBL’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). His overall consistent effort – which also included 5.6 rebounds (third from the Saints) and 1.4 steals (second), showed he was able to accumulate stats across the board. He shot at 34.2 per cent from outside the arc, and 55.4 per cent from in it, doing most of his damage there and forcing his way to the foul line. He finished off at 82.9 per cent when shooting free throws to worry the opposition. Prewster only had single-digit points twice in the season, and both came with less than 20 minutes on court. In the overtime thriller against Hawkes Bay Hawks, Prewster put up 34 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, whilst earning himself a triple-double in the first semi-final. There, he managed 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a remarkable effort that capped off a year where he had four games of 30-plus points.

Taane Samuel

The other All-Star 5 member for the 2021 season was Samuel, who was able to impress out of the front court, averaging 16.5 points and 3.8 rebounds. He shot at 43.8 per cent from outside the arc in a deadly accurate display, and 54.8 per cent from the field, showcasing his overall shooting characteristics. He earned a spot on the All-Star side for his accuracy, but also averaged 1.5 steals per game. After a quiet couple of games to start the season, Samuel only had two more games in single-digits, with eight games recording 20-plus points, including the grand final (26). His season-high came against Hawkes Bay Hawks mid-season when he put up 33 points and four rebounds, showing he was the Hawks’ Achilles heal.

Kerwin Roach Jr

Seemingly underrated all season, Roach Jr was the only Saints player to score double-figure points in every single match. He had 20-plus points in six matches, of which four of those came in the last month of the season. He averaged the second most points (17.7), rebounds (5.9) and assists (4.3) in his side, as well as the most steals (1.7) to be a terrific asset for the premiers. He only shot at 33 per cent from long-range which hurt a little, but he had such a high-volume of shots, he was always able to put up big numbers. Roach Jr further put an exclamation mark on his season, with a 16-point, seven-rebound and three-assist game in the grand final to earn the match’s MVP honour.

Tohi Smith-Milner

Coming out of the five spot, Smith-Milner was a menace for opposition sides, leading the Saints for rebounds (6.8) but still putting up plenty of points (14.5) to be fourth overall on his side. He was the fourth player (with the three above) to play – and start – in all 20 games, which made him very difficult to contain. Shooting at 34,4 per cent from outside the arc, Smith-Milner was able to hit his free throws when he went to the line (75.4 per cent) and was at greater than half of his field goal attempts (52.9 per cent). He only dipped into single digits five times, including in the first two games, but unfortunately two of them were in the last three games, including a nine-point grand final. He stepped up in a big way against his former team Auckland Huskies in the first final however, putting up 30 points and nine rebounds in a season-high for him. His best game came against Taranaki Mountainairs on July 2, recording a massive 25 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and two steals in that win over the bottom side.


Two other big men who had the next most points traditionally coming off the bench were Leon Henry (9.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals) and Romaro Gill (8.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks), while Troy McLean took the court in every game starting on the bench, for 4.3 points and 1.4 rebounds from limited minutes.


There is not much to say for the Wellington Saints given their success of winning the 2021 NZNBL premiership tells the story. The minor premiers became the overall premiers, dropping just two games in total on their way to glory with four players starting every game, and consistency that was crucial throughout the year.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL team review: Hawkes Bay Hawks

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series continues with Hawkes Bay Hawks.


Position: 2nd
Wins: 14
Losses: 6


Points: 92.6 (2nd)
Rebounds: 37.7 (3rd)
Assists: 18.3 (2nd)
Steals: 8.0 (4th)
Blocks: 3.1 (2nd)
Field Goal %: 47.4 (4th)


Devondrick Walker

A shooting machine, Walker was a sensational and reliable player throughout the 2021 NZNBL Grand Final, putting up 21.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals throughout the year. Walker led his team in points, and was second in both assists and steals, showcasing his ball-handling skills. Nailing 70 of his 164 three-point attempts, the long-range shooter averaged 42.7 per cent from beyond the arc, always dangerous when lining up for the jumper. When he did occasionally get to the free throw line, he converted 84.6 per cent of the time. Walker put up double-digits in all bar two games he was on court, and amassed 20-plus scores in 11 games. In his last three outings, Walker had his most prolific games of the year – two of which were finals – in his final three matches to put up an average of 33 points and six rebounds across the three games.

Hyrum Harris

The well-balanced talent had another strong season backing up his 2020 year by leading his team in rebounds (8.1), assists (4.0) and steals (2.1), being the key facilitator for the Sharks like he was for the Jets last season. Again Harris fell short of a premiership medal, finishing runner-up for the second consecutive season, but he did everything he could during the year. He shot at 55.4 per cent from the field, and whilst his free throw shooting was down (just 66.7 per cent efficiency), he was still able to contribute across the court. Harris ended the year with 12 double-digit points games, including a run of five consecutive matches mid-season. His two finals saw outings of 19 and 22 points, both being double-doubles. In total, Harris managed six double-doubles, and stepped up when needed.

Ethan Rusbatch

The ever-reliable Rusbatch played all bar one game, and started in each of them, averaging 16.8 points per match to be second in his team behind Walker. He also managed the 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 steals. Rusbatch shot at a high 38.7 per cent from long-range to combine well with Walker from beyond the arc, and he managed an 81.8 per cent efficiency when he got to the charity stripe. His consistency was remarkable, with a run of 15 consecutive games in double-digits. Unfortunately his grand final (four points) was a quiet one, but overall he contributed to the team with seven rebounds. At one point in the season he had a five-game streak of 20 or more points, with his season high of 36 coming against Otago Nuggets on June 12, with a whooping nine of 15 triples in that game.

Rhys Vague

Whilst Vague played a few less games than the others (16, including 15 starting), he still did his part off the boards to be second overall behind Harris in rebounds (7.0), and fifth overall for points (12.0). He played his role each and every week, and shot at 36.8 per cent from outside the arc and 48.6 per cent overall, though support off the boards was his main job. When he got to the line, Vague hit three quarters of his free throws to be a reliable option there. Of his 16 games, 10 were in double-figure points, and he had the one double-double against Manawatu Jets on June 20, when he picked up 11 points and 12 rebounds, though he had an outlying 25-point game (the only match about 20 points) along with eight rebounds and five assists, against Otago Nuggets on June 12, dominating with Rusbatch.


He was one of the more dominant players in 2020, and whilst Derone Raukawa was not as dominant in 2021, he still contributed 12.3 points, 3.6 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals. The two players coming off the bench with good numbers were Jonathan Janssen (8.6 points, 6.2 rebounds) and Jordan Hunt (11.2 points, 4.2 rebounds).


The Hawkes Bay Hawks came within a basket of winning the overall prize, having the better of the Wellington Saints midway through the 2021 NZNBL Grand Final, but could ultimately not finish the job. Nonetheless they can be proud with their efforts after not dropping a game at home all season.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL team review: Southland Sharks

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series continues with Southland Sharks.


Position: 3rd
Wins: 13
Losses: 6


Points: 91.3 (3rd)
Rebounds: 37.1 (4th)
Assists: 19.4 (1st)
Steals: 8.3 (3rd)
Blocks: 2.4 (7th)
Field Goal %: 48.3 (2nd)


Dom Kelman-Poto

After an impressive year last season in the NZNBL, Kelman-Poto took his game to another level in 2021, making the NZNBL All-Star 5 and being a dominant player across the board. The Sharks’ big man finished with an average of 18.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game, topping his side in points and rebounds in what was an overall even effort. He shot at 29.6 per cent from long-range, but capitalised 65.2 per cent of the time from the charity stripe. Kelman-Poto only had two games with single-digit points, and racked up 10 or more rebounds on seven occasions. His last four games were sensational in the Sharks run to the Final Four, with an average of 26.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists in that time. His best effort was 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists against Canterbury Rams on July 15.

Josh Cunningham

The other big man to team up in tandem with Kelman-Poto was Cunningham, who had a consistent season to be second to his All-Star teammate in both points (14.6) and rebounds (8.2). He finished third overall for the Sharks with assists (2.6), and still managed a steal per game. His field goal percentage was better than half (53.3 per cent) and he scored 67.4 per cent from the free throw line in 2021. Cunningham was the only other player with Kelman-Poto to start in all 19 games, and he had double-figure points in 14 of them. Recording 20-plus points in six matches, Cunningham’s top performance came against the Auckland Huskies on June 26 when he put up 28 points and 10 rebounds.

Courtney Belger

Whilst Kelman-Poto and Cunningham were the rebounding machines, Belger was the facilitator, with the American import averaging a competition-high 5.5 assists per games. Not only did his pinpoint passes into the paint and around the arc, but Belger went to town himself, averaging 12.3 points and 3.7 rebounds, as well as leading his side in steals (1.8). His shooting percentage was lower (46.2 per cent from the field), but Belger was ultra-reliable from the line, making 69 of his 82 free throws at 84.1 per cent. In his 19 games, Belger had some highs and lows, with 13 games in double-digit points, and two of those were 20-plus. He picked up two double-doubles for the season, with his best dime performance coming against Manawatu Jets on June 11 (22 points, 11 assists), but his best overall performance being a 23-point, eight-rebound and five-assist effort against Canterbury Rams on July 2.

Brayden Inger

Whilst there was plenty of depth at the club, Inger was another valued member of the starting side, standing up in 18 of the 19 games – and coming off the bench in the other. He averaged 14.4 points to rank third at the club for that stat, in the same position for rebounds (4.6). Also averaging a steal per game, Inger was important on transition, and shot a team-high 56 triples at 40.3 per cent, showcasing his deadly long-range accuracy. He picked up double-digit points in all bar four games, and three of those came in the first five matches. His best performance was arguably a 27-point, six-rebound, three-assist effort against Nelson Giants on May 23, though there were plenty of solid efforts throughout 2021.


Rounding out the starting five, Alonzo Burton picked up 13.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals, with a host of bench players coming on to provide important roles. The two standouts off the pine were Toby Gillooly (8.5 points, 4.4 rebounds) and Sione Helu (6.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists).


The Southland Sharks had a really impressive season, with a consistent starting five, something that was symbolic of the top three sides. Whilst not as dominant at home as the top two teams, the Sharks came agonisingly close to reaching the NZNBL final, and will be well placed for another crack at it next season.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL team review: Auckland Huskies

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series continues with Auckland Huskies.


Position: 4th
Wins: 11
Losses: 8


Points: 85.5 (6th)
Rebounds: 35.3 (8th)
Assists: 15.1 (7th)
Steals: 7.0 (7th)
Blocks: 2.2 (8th)
Field Goal %: 45.0 (6th)


Chris Johnson

The star import was enormous throughout the season, and whilst he had to head back to the United States prior to the end of the season, Johnson finished averaging a massive double-double. He put up 20.1 points. 11.0 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 1.7 blocks, shooting at 32.8 per cent from long-range, and 49.1 per cent from the field overall. When getting to the line, he rarely missed, with an 88.24 per cent success rate. In a remarkable feat of consistency, Johnson did not dip below 11 points all season, and had 20 or more on eight occasions, including a 30-point season-high outing on debut. He picked up 10 double-doubles throughout 2021, with his best saved for last, when he racked up 25 points and 20 rebounds – 16 defensive – against the Manawatu Jets.

Zach Riley

Starting the equal most amount of games, and playing in all 19 for the Huskies, Riley averaged 10.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals. He was as consistent as any player, holding the team together through other absences and injuries. With a 40 per cent clip from long-range and 49.7 per cent from the field, Riley could be relied upon to hit the jumper. Like Johnson, he was emphatically good from the line, hitting 87.8 per cent of his free throws. Riley had a slower start to the season, only averaging in single digits for the first eight games, then had eight of the last 11 in double-digits. His consistency at times from game-to-game wavered from a points scoring perspective, hitting zero points from 29 minutes against Franklin Bulls, but then also putting up 32 points in 40 minutes against Taranaki Mountainairs.

Dontae Nance

The teenage star was outstanding for the Huskies off the bench, only starting three times, but making his impact felt when coming on the court. He averaged 11.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals, lighting up the boards with his X-factor. He shot at 31.6 per cent from long-range and 40 per cent overall, still a raw talent but one with plenty of years to develop. The 16-year-old started the season on fire with double digits in three of his first four games, and had another five games of double-digits. Whilst consistency is still an area to iron out, no doubt Nance has some exciting traits.

Tom Vodanovich

Coming in for the second half of the season after his ANBL duties, Vodanovich showed why he was the 2020 NZNBL Most Valuable Player. He averaged 21.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists from nine games, scoring 65.9 per cent of his free throws. His three-point shooting preference had him at 36.6 per cent, with an overall field goal percentage of 48.2 per cent. When Vodanovich is on, he is hard to stop, having two games of 33 points, and another four games of more than 20 points in his nine. His best effort was 33 points and 13 rebounds in overtime against Southland Sharks, the first of three double-doubles for the big man, with another 33 points and seven rebounds in the losing semi-final to Wellington Saints.


Much like Vodanovich, Justin Bibbs only played the nine games, but put up 18.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists in that time, whilst Brooke Ruscoe (10.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals) and Nick Barrow (4.4 points. 2.8 rebounds) were regular starters. Jeremy Kendle played the first three games and racked up a ridiculous 28.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.3 steals before heading back to Australia to play.


The Auckland Huskies just found a way to stay in games and win matches without dominating the stats sheet. As the team stats show, they were fairly low down in the scheme of things, but still made finals and fought hard despite being undermanned. They unearthed Nance and had they had their best players all year long, they would have been a serious threat.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL team review: Canterbury Rams

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series continues with Canterbury Rams.


Position: 5th
Wins: 9
Losses: 9


Points: 86.1 (5th)
Rebounds: 37.9 (2nd)
Assists: 16.8 (eq. 5th)
Steals: 8.4 (2nd)
Blocks: 1.6 (9th)
Field Goal %: 44.8 (8th)


Deshon Taylor

Producing an all-round impressive performance for the Rams, Taylor was consistent across the board, playing in all 18 games and having an impact. One of only four players to run out in every game, and one of only two to start every game, Taylor finished the season with a team-high 8.3 rebounds, and finished second in points (18.1), assists (4.6) and steals (1.7), able to use the ball effectively in transition. Taylor also was deadly from long-range, nailing 40 three-pointers at 40.8 per cent efficiency, whilst going at 49.4 per cent from the field overall. When at the line, Taylor was reasonably reliable two, with a 73.5 per cent efficiency.

Looking at his best performances, it was hard to go past his sole double-double performance of 33 points, 10 rebounds – four offensive – six assists and two steals, one of four 30-plus point performances in 2021. Three of those four came in a 16-day streak, putting up 31, 35 and 33-point efforts, to average 29.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals. He did not dip into single-digits once, and only had five games below 20 points, four of which came in his first five games, showing how consistent he was from late May until the finish line.

EJ Singler

Showing all of his ANBL experience, Singler was a star for the Bulls, sharing the top two spots in all the key statistical areas with Taylor. Finishing second on the team for rebounds (4.8), he led the way with points (22.9), assists (4.8) and steals (2.5), providing serious impact across the court at both ends. Putting up a third of his three-point attempts, Singler shot at around 45.3 per cent from the field, making 40 of 121 three-point attempts. From the foul line he was almost a monty, nailing 100 of 113 at 88.5 per cent accuracy. Along with Taylor, Singler was the only other starter in every one of the 18 games.

Singler did not quite have the consistency of Taylor, with a slow start to the season off limited minutes, but then a ridiculous game of 41 points mid-season. In the end, he had six games of 20-plus points, with the 41-point effort against Taranaki Mountainairs, accompanied by nine assists, seven rebounds and three steals. He had some massive games off the boards though, picking up six double-doubles with points and rebounds, of which the highest combination was his 26 points and 13 rebounds, and his closest to a triple-double being 17 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals coming against Franklin Bulls on May 22.


Quintin Bailey contributed across all 18 games on his way to 8.7 points and 3.6 rebounds, with Alex Talma (7.2 points, 4.6 rebounds) the other player to run out in every match. Jack Salt only managed half a season due to injury, but the dominant big man managed the 13.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in nine matches, while Max Darling put up 12.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in seven. Sam Smith (6.9 points, 3.6 rebounds) was the other player to hold up well throughout season 2021.


The Canterbury Rams were never an easy team to play against, and whilst they missed out on the NZNBL finals, they won nine games at a 50 per cent winning ratio. One cannot help but think had Salt (injury) and Darling (ANBL commitments) been available the whole season, that finals may well have been a reality for the Rams.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Dozen it feel good? Wellington Saints claim 12th NZNBL title

WELLINGTON Saints have claimed their twelfth New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) title in one of the most thrilling finishes to a decider. Leading by two points in the dying moments against Hawkes Bay Hawks, a turnover was stolen by the Hawks, raced up the other end, but unable to get a clean look and safely captured by the Saints to hold on as the buzzer sounded for a two-point win. 77-75.

The top of the table Saints looked like they were going to storm to a dominant win early, taking the lead from the get-go and racing to a 12-point advantage at the first break. That was not indicative of what the Te Rauparaha Arena crowd was about to witness however, as the second placed Hawks began to claw their way back into the contest. Getting it back to as little as a one possession game late in the second term, the Hawks headed into the ain break with a 25-19 quarter win, and a six-point deficit on the scoreboard.

That momentum swing continued into the second half as the Hawks completely stagnated the usually free-flowing Saints attack, keeping Wellington to just nine points in the third quarter and piled on 19 themselves to lead by a team-high lead of four points. That lead extended out to six early in the fourth and it looked like an upset might be brewing. As they had all year though, the Saints found a way and dug deep to quickly make up the difference. There were eight lead changes in the final term, with the nail-biting finish one to savour.

Tohi Smith-Milner handed the Saints the lead with three minutes remaining, and Taane Samuel – who beat a tribunal charge to play on the night – added a long-range bomb for a four-point lead. Rhys Vague returned serve with layups either side of another Smith-Milner fadeaway and the difference was just two points with 37 remaining on the clock. The experience of Leon Henry came into the game.

With possession the Saints just needed to hold onto it, as Samuel had a three-point attempt which was rebounded, but then a Kerwin Roach Jr pass under pressure almost proved costly as Devondrick Walker read it well and raced up the other end. To his credit, Roach Jr forced the body contact as Walker drove to the basket and the buzzer sounded with the ball missing.

The Saints were yet again the more efficient team on the night, putting up 50 per cent of their attempts, despite shooting at a lower 25 per cent from range for just seven of 27. It was still enough to be better than the Hawks (three of 18 at 16 per cent efficiency). They were beaten in the rebounds (42-31) but won the assists (14-13), steals (6-5) and blocks (8-5) all narrowly. To the Hawks’ credit they threw everything at the Saints, and had one less turnover (9-10) which resulted in more points from turnovers (17-13). They also had more second chance points (17-4) and bench points (10-6) in an overall strong performance.

Roach Jr won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) on the biggest stage, scoring 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal in the win. Captain Dion Prewster led from the front putting up 15 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks, and was the only player to fill the full 40 minutes on court. Samuel made the most of his chance being able to play, putting up a team-high 26 points, while Smith-Milner (nine points, four assists, four blocks and three rebounds) was also solid despite inaccuracy.

For the Hawks, Walker had a match-high 31 points and seven rebounds, being the only player to score from long-range with three of eight. Hyrum Harris (22 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks) picked up a double-double for his troubles in what would be his second successive NZNBL Grand Final loss, whilst Vague (eight points, six rebounds) and Derone Raukawa (eight points, two rebounds) also picked up some important points.

It was a memorable decider and the best team for the regular season and on the night lifted the trophy, but not without a real challenge from the Hawks who came so close to glory.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL team review: Otago Nuggets

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series continues with Otago Nuggets.


Position: 6th
Wins: 9
Losses: 9


Points: 86.7 (4th)
Rebounds: 38.9 (1st)
Assists: 16.9 (4th)
Steals: 6.9 (9th)
Blocks: 3.0 (4th)
Field Goal %: 46.0 (5th)


Sam Timmins

The dominant five in the competition, Timmins continued his terrific form at NZNBL level from last season with an All-Star 5 nod. Averaging a double-double of 19.2 points and 13.9 rebounds across 17 matches, Timmins also picked up 4.3 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.4 steals in an impressive balanced throughout the year. Whilst not notably a three-point shooter (six of 39 at 16.3 per cent accuracy), his ability to get to the basket and deliver, or hit the jumper was strong, shooting at a 52.8 per cent overall. His free throw percentage is an area of improvement however, shooting at just 45.8 per cent in 2021.

His rebounding each and every week meant he just about picked up a double-double every night, thanks to only one match – the finale against Canterbury Rams – being a single-digit points match, and only four other matches being single-digit rebounds. That meant he picked up 12 double-doubles from 17 games, including a ridiculous 26 points, 27 rebounds, six assists, three blocks and one steal against Manawatu Jets back on May 15, and a triple-double of 18 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, three blocks and two steals against Canterbury Rams on June 10.

Isaiah Moss

The other big man with plenty of firepower was Moss, who put up more points than any other Nuggets player in season 2021. He finished the year with 21.1 points, as well as 5.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 steals in an all-round effort, but unlike Timmins, we very efficient from beyond the arc. Shooting 61 of a possible 163 attempts, Moss was able to deliver at 37.4 per cent from long0-range, making up the majority of his attempts. It might have brought down his field goal percentage to 44 per cent, but he was able to deliver when at the charity stripe with an 85.1 per cent success rate.

The American was a mirror of consistency, not dropping below double-figure points in any 2021 NZNBL game, with 11 points against the Southland Sharks off limited minutes on July 9 being his lowest total. He had below 20 on just seven occasions, with a further four games with 25 or more points. His season-high came against Hawkes Bay Hawks on July 3, putting up 31 points, as well as nine rebounds, four steals and three assists in that game. His sole double-double came against Manawatu Jets back on May 15 where he recorded 19 points and 10 rebounds in the win.


Geremy McKay started every match like Moss, and put up a consistent 12.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists to be the next best on the side. Richie Rodger (8.8 points, 2.9 assists and 2.8 rebounds) and Josh Aicheson (5.5 points. 2.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists) were the other starters every week, with the Nuggets never tinkering with their starting five. Luke Aston‘s 10.4 points and 2.0 rebounds coming off the bench was the pick of the role players.


The reigning premiers had a much bigger challenge in season 2021 with more teams and the talent distributed again, but they more than held their own. The Nuggets were right in contention for the Final Four heading into the penultimate round, and whilst they missed out on the post-season series, were highly competitive throughout the NZNBL season.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Hawks step up in final stanza to claim narrow win over Sharks

HAWKES Bay Hawks will look to dethrone the top of the table Wellington Saints in the 2021 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Grand Final after an exciting victory over Southland Sharks in the second semi-final last night. The Hawks won in a seven-point thriller against Sharks, after the teams were level at the final break. Now the Saints and Hawks will do battle in the decider tonight at Te Rauparaha Arena.

In a seesawing contest all night, neither team really felt comfortable when they held a lead, as the sides momentum ebbed and flowed and never got beyond 13 points, with double-digits only arising halfway through the last term. The game started with lead changes galore and a high-scoring opening stanza, as the Hawks took the ascendancy to head into quarter time with a seven-point lead. It was never going to be all one-way traffic however, and the Sharks hit back in the second quarter with an impressive 27-16 lead and put it out to a four-point advantage at half-time, which was their largest lead of the game.

Despite putting it out to six early in the third term, that was as far as it got for the Sharks, as each challenge Southland threw down to the Hawks, Hawkes Bay answered with flying colours. By the final break, the teams were as they started, completely level. That was all the Hawks needed, quickly gaining the momentum early in the fourth and blowing the lead right out to 13 points midway through the last term, and buying enough time to secure the win. To the Sharks’ credit they came back and cut the late deficit to seven by the final buzzer, but it was too little, too late and the Hawks got up with a 98-91 victory.

Hawkes Bay was the more accurate shooting team, putting up 51 to 44 per cent from the field, including 43 to 32 per cent from long-range. They also had more rebounds (42-41) and assists (15-13) in virtually even statistics, whilst also recoding five more points off their bench (17-12). The points in the paint and second chance points were dead even at 42 and seven points apiece respectively. Meanwhile the Sharks had three less turnovers (13-16) and therefore capitalised off turnovers (20-8). Southland also had more steals (9-6) and blocks (3-2) in the loss.

Devondrick Walker was the star, knocking down a game-high 33 points in the win, shooting six of 13 from long-range, and also recording five rebounds and two assists in the process. Hyrum Harris picked up a double-double of 19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Ethan Rusbatch (14 points – four of eight from three-point range – and five rebounds) and Rhys Vague (13 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals) both contributed strongly from the start. Derone Raukawa shouldered the load off the bench with 13 points and three assists in 25 minutes.

Dom Kelman-Poto had 25 points, 11 rebounds and four assists was the clear standout for the Sharks in defeat, one of two players to pick up a double-double. Joshua Cunningham also had one with 13 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals. Brayden Inger (18 points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks), Courtney Belger (12 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Sione Helu (11 points) were the other double-figure points scorers for the Sharks.

Now the Hawks will need to dig deep in order to find a way to knock he top of the table Saints off their perch in tonight’s grand final.

Photo credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Dominant second half sees Saints storm into 2021 NZNBL Grand Final

WELLINGTON Saints lived up to their minor premiership billing with an eye-catching semi-final win on night one of the Final Four in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL). The top of the table Wellington Saints took care of the fourth placed Auckland Huskies for the second time in as many weeks, claiming a 26-point victory with a dominant second half. Despite some resistance in the second term from the Huskies, the depth of the Saints proved too great and the ladder leaders secured the big win, and their third over the Huskies to advanced through to the 2021 NZNBL Grand Final.

In the first semi-final of the night, Auckland Huskies stormed to an early eight-point lead at the first break. Looking to grab yet another huge win, they were shocked in the second term as Auckland Huskies produced their most dominant quarter performance against the title favourites, piling on 31-17 in the second term to not only hit back, but take the lead by six points at the main break. With an upset brewing, the Saints knew just what to do, hitting back early in the third term, they put the foot down and blew the Huskies away with a dominant 30-8 third term to all but secure the win. Not taking any chances, Wellington continued to press with another huge quarter in the fourth term, putting up 25 points to 15 to run away with the 99-73 win.

Wellington led all the key statistics, shooting at 55 per cent to the Huskies’ 45 per cent, also draining a whopping 17 triples to eight, and completely outclassing their lower ranked opponents in the rebounds (39-29) and assists (24-6) categories. The Saints also won the steals (5-4), blocks (4-0), points in the paint (42-38) and second chance points, whilst the Huskies had four more turnovers (15-11), but somehow managed to score more from turnovers (13-10).

Tohi Smith-Milner won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the match with a team-high 30 points, as well as nine rebounds, hitting four of nine from long-range. That effort was pretty impressive considering teammate and league MVP Dion Prewster recorded a triple-double in the final. The Saints captain notched up 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the victory, but the fact Smith-Milner only spent 27 minutes on court for his 30 and nine, was a remarkable effort. Kerwin Roach Jr (24 points, seven assists and five rebounds) and Leon Henry (11 points, seven rebounds) were other double-figure scorers.

For the Huskies, Tom Vodanovich hit a match-high 33 points in the loss, also collecting seven rebounds for his troubles. Rising star Zach Riley stepped up to assist with 17 points, five rebounds and two assists, while fellow teenager Dontae Nance returned to the side for 10 points, three steals and two rebounds, but the supporting roles would not be enough for the Huskies to cause a monumental upset.

Wellington Saints will now take on the second placed Hawkes Bay Hawks in the 2021 NZNBL Grand Final tonight, in a bid to win yet another flag, having taken out the 2019 title, the last season the Saints competed in the competition.

Photo credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL team review: Nelson Giants

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series continues with Nelson Giants.


Position: 7th
Wins: 6
Losses: 10


Points: 80.7 (9th)
Rebounds: 29.9 (10th)
Assists: 14.1 (9th)
Steals: 7.7 (5th)
Blocks: 1.3 (10th)
Field Goal %: 45.0 (eq. 7th)


Hunter Hale

His side might not have had a great season, but it was hard to fault the consistency of Hale, who night-in, night-out put up a ridiculous amount of points for his side. Earning a place in the All-Star 5, Hale also averaged the most points in the NZNBL. In season 201, Hale averaged 26.9 points per game, shooting at 48.5 per cent from the field including a 35.9 per cent clip from long-range and draining a total of 52 three-points in the season. He was also reliable when he got to the line, averaging 82.6 per cent from the charity stripe. With 5.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.6 steals to go with his high-volume shooting, Hale was the complete player.

One might not have guessed his season would pan out the way it did with just eight points in 27 minutes against Southland Sharks in the opening match. From then on, he would only play less than 30 minutes twice, and would only dip below 20 points once, in a mirror of consistency. He kept putting up huge records and breaking them, with a 37-point outing against Canterbury Rams on May 20 eclipsed two days later with a 41-point performance against Otago Nuggets in overtime. He had another 41-point effort a week later, and recorded an additional 30-plus points on four occasions. Whilst never recording a triple-double and in fact only one double-double, Hale came within reach of that feat twice, against Franklin Bulls on May 8 (26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists) and Auckland Huskies on July 2 (30 points, nine rebounds and eight assists).

Donte Ingram

The other dominant shooter for the Giants was Ingram with the fellow American averaging 18.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals in 2021. Playing the perfect tandem support role to Hale, Ingram was huge off the boards, teaming up with Sam Dempster as Nelson’s two key rebounders. His overall balance was impressive, shooting at 35.7 per cent from outside the arc and 45.3 per cent from the field, hitting the second most threes (35) in his side. Much like Hale, Ingram was a regular fixture in the Giants’ starting five and a key contributor throughout the year.

The versatile utility only had single-digit points once – against Otago Nuggets on June 18 when he put up six points – and had 20 or more points on five occasions. Whilst a consistent 15-20 point shooter on his night, Ingram exploded against Auckland Huskies on July 2, knocking down 38 points and picking up 10 rebounds. The night feature five of eight from long-range, and was 12 more points than his next highest score. That 26 points came against Manawatu Jets on June 3, which triggered back-to-back double-doubles, with the Huskies double-double making it four for the year in total.


Dempster’s rebounding was important for the side, putting up more rebounds (7.8) than points (7.3), but providing that extra big body close to the basket. Tom Ingram (10.9 points, 2.5 rebounds) and Anzac Risetto (7.3 points, 3.3 rebounds) also contributed well, whilst Nic Trathen came off the bench with his deadly three-point shooting of 45 per cent accuracy to average 9.3 points and 2.9 rebounds.


Whilst the season was not ideal for the Giants who struggled at times, there was no shortage of highlights with the likes of Hale and Ingram going to work. They had some solid supporting roles, but not enough depth to match the top sides, which culminated in their overall eighth placed finish in 2021.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL