Faced with the daunting task of replacing local legend Paul Henare, the HBS Bank Hawks have pulled a rabbit out of the hat, signing former Tall Blacks coach Tab Baldwin for the 2013 Bartercard National Basketball League season.
Baldwin (54) hasn't coached in the competition since 2001, but has won more titles than any other coach in league history, guiding the Auckland Stars to five in eight seasons at the helm. His return gives him a chance to regain the lead for career wins - he currently has 203, second only to current Tall Blacks coach Nenad Vucinic (237).
'We're really excited to have him here,' says Hawks general manager Paul Trass. 'Tab will add something special to the basketball community in Hawke's Bay, which is already pretty strong.
'He has a very professional manner and he's a great motivator, not only within basketball, but also in the wider community. Tab just commands respect.
'We couldn't believe how excited he was about coming to Hawke's Bay. When you get that feeling, you start to believe it could be great.'
Baldwin was a key figure in the development of predecessor Henare as a player, luring him from Napier to Auckland in 1998 to be part of his championship dynasty. After hanging up his sneakers, Henare guided the Hawks to the 2011 NBL final and the semis again last season, but has signed with the Southland Sharks next year.
After leaving the NBL, Baldwin steered the national men's team to their first Oceania series victory over Australia in 2001, taking them to two world championships, the 2004 Athens Olympics and silver medals at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
He surrendered the Tall Blacks' reins in 2007 to pursue a professional career in Europe, coaching in Turkey, Romania and Greece, before taking the Lebanon men to the 2010 world championships and Jordan within a basket of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics.
He is currently coaching the Fujian Sturgeons in the Chinese national league. Baldwin will arrive in Napier in the new year to supervise the pre-season programme for HBS Bank Hawks.
'Returning to NZ is such an exciting move for me and my family,' says Baldwin. 'I've missed the people, the lifestyle and the basketball community that have given me so much throughout my career.'
'My goal is to take what is already a great organisation to the very top of NZ basketball. The players that we will bring in or keep in the programme will be totally dedicated to this goal or their flight time with the Hawks will be short-lived.
'Commitment to the Hawks organisation, community and team goals will be beyond compromise. We owe this to the community and will pledge this to our fans.'
Trass says the recruitment process begins now.
'We told everyone the new coach wouldn't be a disappointment and we believe we'll have most of last year's players back, plus a couple of other significant signings.'
Round nine began with the second placed Wellington Saints (10-2) entertaining the HBS Bank Hawks (3-8). New Saints import Rick Rickert(211-C/F-83, agency: SportsTalent, college: Minnesota) made a telling contribution on debut scoring 17 points and gathering 14 rebounds in just nineteen minutes court time. The scores were level at the end of the third period but a 28-16 surge from the Saints in the final ten minutes saw them home [read more]
Round nine began with the second placed Wellington Saints (10-2) entertaining the HBS Bank Hawks (3-8). New Saints import Rick Rickert (211-C/F-83, agency: SportsTalent, college: Minnesota) made a telling contribution on debut scoring 17 points and gathering 14 rebounds in just nineteen minutes court time. The scores were level at the end of the third period but a 28-16 surge from the Saints in the final ten minutes saw them home. Dillon Boucher and Brian Greene (29 points) were ejected after a fourth quarter altercation and both face a one game suspension.
The table topping Otago Nuggets (11-1) secured their first visit to the play-offs since 1997, defeating the Jets in Palmerston North 110-102. The victory was built on a powerful first half performance, the Nuggets amassing 66 points to lead by 22 at the break. The Jets looked dead and buried but led by Chris Hagan (28pts/7assists/5 steals) and Marcel Jones (27pts) they clawed their way back into the game to trail by just five points entering the final four minutes. The Nuggets kept their composure in the closing stages, the NBLs two leading scorers, Akeem Wright and BJ Anthony seeing them home. Wright scored 33 points (13 from 17 from the field) and Anthony 28 points. Anthony has obviously been working on his outside shot his stroke looks far smoother than it did last year and 3 from 4 from behind the three point arc is evidence his hard work is paying off. Interestingly the Jets back up centre Miles Pearce managed to foul out in just 10:15 playing time.
The Waikato Pistons had recorded a comprehensive victory over fellow cellar dwellers the James Blond Super City Rangers last week but in Hamilton on Friday night the tables were turned. With both teams boasting just one victory each the result was likely to decide the recipient of the wooden spoon. Unfortunately for Waikato they made a dreadful start trailing 37-51 at half time the home team were not helped by import Garrius Holloman shooting just one from nine in the half. He and the team did improve in the second half and in fact trailed by just one point (72-73) with 5:30 remaining. However the Rangers held their nerve and aided by a Duane Bailey three and six points from Shea Ili in the final three minutes secured an 87-77 win. The trio of guards, Houston ORiley (19pts), Carl Buck (18pts) and Ili (16pts) were outstanding for the Rangers. Once again Tai Webster (24pts) led the Pistons scoring and Zack Atkinson was his usual efficient self (14pts/18 rebounds).
On Saturday the Taranaki Mountain Airs v Southland Sharks fixture tipped off at 5pm to avoid clashing with the televised All Blacks rugby test. Not sure if it worked in terms of crowd support but it certainly didnt work on the score board as the Sharks secured a vital 101-93 win. Taranaki shaded the first period 21-19 but were overhauled in the second period, the Sharks ahead 49-45 at the main break. The visitors extended their lead in the third in front 76-64, the import duo of Kevin Braswell and Brian Conklin doing a lot of the damage. The Sharks were still nine points ahead with 4:12 remaining but a three from Ethan Rusbatch and a pair of buckets from veteran Link Abrams brought the Airs within three points with 2:50 remaining. The reliable duo of Conklin (27pts) and Braswell (23pts) steadied the Southland ship, Leon Henry (20pts) and Luke Martin made free throws, and the Sharks moved a step closer to the play-offs. Jack Leasure accumulated 24 points for the Airs but the loss means they can no longer make the play-offs. The HBS Hawks entertained the Jets without the suspended Brian Greene and injured Everard Bartlett. They made a promising start to lead 20-17 at quarter time, Alonso Burton scoring 8 points. The Jets upped their defensive intensity in the second quarter and aided by back to back threes from Troy MacLean established a four points half time buffer and a 50-59 advantage at three quarter time. Chris Hagan (16pts) eased the Jets into a ten point lead early in the final quarter and the visitors were able to keep a double digit advantage to close out a comfortable 80-66 win. Dion Prewster had his most productive game for the Hawks, amassing 18 points and 16 rebounds and Nick Horvath was the best of the Jets knocking down 23 points and snaring 16 rebounds. The win keeps the play-off hopes of the Jets alive but the Hawks, whilst still have a mathematical chance of qualifying are realistically out of contention for 2013.
Josh Pace scored 10 first quarter points to help the Nelson Giants establish a 25-19 advantage over league leaders the Otago Nuggets in Nelson but there was a momentum reversal in the second period, the Nuggets taking it out 24-16 to lead by two points at half time. The third quarter was a tight affair, Otago ahead by the slimmest of margins, 63-62 with ten minutes to play. The teams were neck and neck in the final quarter the lead changing hands on several occasions. The Giants made their move with three minutes remaining; Mika Vukona blocked a BJ Anthony shot and then made a brace of free throws. Erron Maxey made a basket and suddenly the Giants were ahead 81-74 with just over two minutes to play. However the league leaders werent finished, Anthony and Wright making back to back baskets to trim the margin to 2 points. Brooke Ruscoe restored a four points advantage for the home side; Pace held his nerve at the free throw line and the Nuggets suffered just their second loss of the season going down 87-82. The Nuggets (11-2) remain top of the table and the Giants (9-3) strengthen their grip on third spot. Benny Anthony led all scorers with 24 points (9 from 14 from the field), Josh Pace, 22 points was key for the Giants as was Mika Vukona, 8 rebounds and 20 points including a perfect 10 of 10 from the charity stripe.
The only Sunday game of the round played at Trusts Stadium, Waitakere featured the James Blond Super City Rangers and the Southland Sharks, both teams seeking their second win of the round. The Rangers shaded the first quarter 24-21, the Sharks the second quarter 26-20. Four players had ten points at the main break the lively Shea Ili and Patrich Bolstad for the home team and Kevin Braswell and Leon Henry for the southerners. The Sharks quickly stretched their lead, up by twelve points early in the third period as Brian Conklin found his range having sat on the bench for long periods of the first half after getting into foul trouble. Braswell committed a technical foul in the final seconds of the quarter to gift the Rangers a couple of points but the Sharks were still in control, 67-57with ten minutes remaining. The final quarter was a scrappy affair as turnovers increased and shooting percentages plummeted. Both teams shot below 40% from the field and combined, just 17% (7 from 42) from behind the three point arc. Conklin (25pts/15 rebounds) led all scorers and he was ably supported by Leon Henry (19pts). Carl Buck (18pts) spearheaded the Rangers effort and Ili, surely on the Breakers radar as a development player finished with 11points, 6 rebounds and 3 impressive blocks. It may have been scrappy but the Sharks will be delighted with their weekends work. Two road wins and a cemented place in the top four will have pleased coach Paul Henare.
James Blond Super City Rangers v Zero Fees Southland Sharks June 16, 2013.
Southland Sharks fans prefer their team playing at home, it gives them a chance to cheer their players on but also because the Sharks have won all but one home game this season so far. Stadium Southland truly is the Shark Dome and the fans make sure the opposition knows who they are facing not just the guys in orange, but also the crowd in orange. Its a job they take as seriously as the players do on the court [read more]
James Blond Super City Rangers v Zero Fees Southland Sharks June 16, 2013. Southland Sharks fans prefer their team playing at home, it gives them a chance to cheer their players on but also because the Sharks have won all but one home game this season so far. Stadium Southland truly is the Shark Dome and the fans make sure the opposition knows who they are facing not just the guys in orange, but also the crowd in orange. Its a job they take as seriously as the players do on the court. So its understandable there were a few grumpy faces in Invercargill this weekend as the Sharks hit the road for two games in two days away from the comfort of their own Shark Dome. The second game of the double whammy started interestingly enough with the Sharks trailing by seven points in the first quarter, which was very swiftly rectified by half time. It was a nervous half time wait for those Southland Sharks fans watching the live stats on their computer while their team stood face to face with the City Rangers half way up the country. A narrow margin of just three points had the Sharks in the lead with 47 44 at the half time mark. American import Brian Conklin (198-F-89, college: St.Louis) the lead scorer with 23 at that point in the game. Brian went on to score 25 points and 15 rebounds in under 25 minutes, again showing the consistency in his game that he has throughout the season. With 32 seconds left on the clock in the 3rd quarter, the Southland Sharks lead had increased to 12 points to show 67-55. During the last quarter in form Luke Martin (181-PG-81, college: UTEP) wasted no time scoring mere seconds after coming back on as a substitute, inching the Sharks lead further ahead. The game finished strongly in favour of the Southland Sharks (82 to 69), hopefully silencing those critics who not so long ago claimed that the Sharks couldnt win away from home. This game is the second away win in two days, and fourth straight win in a row for a strong and talented Southland Sharks team. The fans no doubt will be jubilant, loud and fired up for the last home game of the season in the Shark Dome in Invercargill on Friday June 21st, when the Sharks face their closest neighbours the OceanaGold Nuggets. The Nuggets currently occupy the top spot on the standing table. Brian Conklin scored 25 points, Leon Henry (202-F/G-85, college: S.Idaho JC) 19, Kevin Braswell (188-G-79, agency: Priority Sports, college: Georgetown)l 14.
Taranaki Mountain Airs v Zero Fees Southland Sharks - June 15, 2013.
The fans had every reason to be both optimistic and nervous as the Southland Sharks took to the road this weekend for their two away games back to back. Optimistic because the Sharks are in fine form with their last two games both being wins, and nervous because previous away games didn't quite go according to plan with two losses from two games [read more]
Taranaki Mountain Airs v Zero Fees Southland Sharks - June 15, 2013. The fans had every reason to be both optimistic and nervous as the Southland Sharks took to the road this weekend for their two away games back to back. Optimistic because the Sharks are in fine form with their last two games both being wins, and nervous because previous away games didn't quite go according to plan with two losses from two games. First up this weekend were the Taranaki Mountain Airs who they beat in fine form when the Airs visited Invercargill. There have been doubts about the Sharks record on the road by certain sceptics but Coach Paul Henare has proven that he knows what hes doing and will no doubt have his team ready for the challenge ahead. The challenge was met by the players as the Sharks were in front by half time. Although the Sharks led by 9 points going into the final quarter the Airs managed to close that gap to just four at 88-84 with a mere four nerve wrecking, nail biting minutes to go. But thankfully the Sharks showed they are made of sterner stuff and won by 101-93. Brian Conklin (198-F-89, college: St.Louis) was again unstoppable and tallied up with 27 points. Kevin Braswell (188-G-79, agency: Priority Sports, college: Georgetown)l 23, Leon Henry (202-F/G-85, college: S.Idaho JC) 20, Luke Martin (181-PG-81, college: UTEP) 12, Reuben Te Rangi (197-F-94) 12.
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