The Mike Pero Nelson Giants squad of 2017.

Nelson Giants season 2017

0
2519

Mike Pero Nelson Giants are primed for 2017 NBL season.

It promises to be a fast and furious start for the 2017 Mike Pero Nelson Giants, not that captain Sam Dempster would want it any other way.

The Giants begin their National Basketball League campaign on Thursday with a midweek road game against the Southland Sharks before they welcome the Taranaki Mountainairs to the Trafalgar Centre for their first home game on Saturday night.

Change built around a steady core has been name of the game during the offseason for the iconic National Basketball League franchise, with two new imports in Joe Slocum and Curtis Washington and new coach in Melbourne’s Alan McAughtry, as well as Kiwi recruit Dion Prewster.

Mike pero Nelson Giants captain Sam Dempster hopeds the fans will make sure the Trafalgar Centre is noisy in 2017. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport.
Mike pero Nelson Giants captain Sam Dempster hopeds the fans will make sure the Trafalgar Centre is noisy in 2017. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport.

The Giants will be looking to go one better at least this season and make the playoffs, after they finished fifth last year despite leading the competition at the midway point.

The Giants, who are the only NBL franchise to be a part of every single season since their inception in 1980, have drawn five consecutive away games through the month of April, including away games on back-to-back nights against the Canterbury Rams and Southland Sharks on April 21 and 22.

Coach Alan McAughtry says, despite the short build-up, he wants his team to play to win this year.

“We want to win, too,””he says. We are working hard five nights a week, doing individual sessions and we are all really putting it in.”

“The work that has gone in before I arrived needs to be acknowledged.
“I know there’s a honeymoon period with every new job, but the hard work starts now and we want to have a great season.”

The local players have remained largely unchanged with Sam Dempster, Ali Granger, Bronson Beri, Tom Ingham, Riley Bensemann, Nic Trathen, Finn Delany, Tyler March and Sam Seelen, all Nelson-based players returning.

Finn has returned from a big first season with the New Zealand Breakers and much will be expected of him in 2017.

Alan says the integration of the local and international players “has been first class” and he was expecting the team to gel quickly.

Sam Dempster says, despite a shortened preseason, he is confident of a good showing in 2017 given the calibre of players on the roster.

“It’s always going to be hard, we’ve had a coach for a week, two imports for a week and one of our starters for a week, but we always pride ourselves on getting ready for the start of the season and I know the local guys have worked their butts off to get ready for the start of the season.”

“We are lucky we have people who have been going hard at the gym, down at the beach.”

Finn Delany will be a key member of the 2017 Mike Pero Nelson Giants. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport Limited
Finn Delany will be a key member of the 2017 Mike Pero Nelson Giants. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport Limited

The Giants had two preseason games against the Rams and Wellington Saints in Blenheim over the weekend, which Sam says is always a good measuring stick for where the team is at.

“I think those games are about take-aways, what you can learn from each game and awareness of things we need to work on. The score is not so important.”

Sam emphasised the importance of a fast start and the value of wins on the road.

“We will have to have a fast start but I believe we have the players that are capable of that.”

“Picking up wins on the road is tough in this league but it’s something we are going to have to do if we want to give our home fans something to get excited about.”

“We want to see the (Trafalgar Centre) packed out this year, we’ve got a really good group of guys who are going to play some exciting basketball.”

The Giants lost both their preseason matches in Blenheim over the weekend to the Wellington Saints and Canterbury Rams, respectively.

Alan says the first-up effort against the Saints was scratchy and lacked the effort he was expecting, but the players bounced back against the Rams to lead the game for the first three quarters before surrendering the lead late.

The Giants face the Southland Sharks in Invercargill in Thursday night before returning to Nelson to take on the Taranaki Mountainairs on Saturday night.