New Zealand Breakers coach Kevin Braswell thinks his past experience in Southland will give his team an advantage ahead of the first ever Australian National Basketball League game in Invercargill tonight.
Braswell, who played for the Southland Sharks for five seasons and had his singlet number retired, said the experience of playing at ILT Stadium Southland would give the Breakers an edge.
“We know the stadium a little bit. I’ve always told people it’s probably the best stadium in New Zealand. It’s always for me and it’s home because I’ve played so many games there.”
He said the added experience from Breakers assistant and current Sharks coach Judd Flavell, Sharks player Jarrad Weeks and former Sharks players Tai Wesley and Shea Ili would also provide his side with home court advantage.
The Breakers arrived in Invercargill yesterday in a buoyant mood following back-to-back victories against Cairns and Brisbane last weekend.
The Breakers are sitting in fourth place and Braswell said the game against second-placed Melbourne was an important one for their season.
“It’s a huge game for both teams because it could set us back.
“In this league every game is tight. Melbourne have a great squad and they’re coached very well so it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
Braswell believes the Breakers are beginning to find their form.
“We’re getting there. The game against Cairns we played well and I thought the first half against Brisbane we actually showed how good we can be.
“Our group is new. Melbourne has been together a lot. But our group is a very, very new group and something that the Breakers aren’t used to having because they’re used to having that core group.”
Close to 1800 tickets have been sold ahead of tonight’s game and a large walk-up crowd is expected.
ILT Stadium Southland general manager Nigel Skelt said the game was huge for Invercargill and the Southland region.
“We’ve been working with the Breakers’ management now for the last three years to try and get a competition game to Invercargill.
“We had two non-competition games previously and it was always the dream to be able to bring the Breakers to Invercargill and now we’ve been able to achieve that we’re hugely excited.”
It will be the first of four Breakers home games to be played outside their Auckland base this season. The others will be played in Wellington, Hamilton and Christchurch.
This article was originally written for The Otago Daily Times. You can read the published version here