Tom Gargiulo was the final pick for the Mike Pero Nelson Giants in the inaugural NZNBL draft. Photo: Jonty Dine.

From top fan to newest player


Tom Gargiulo has done everything at the Mike Pero Nelson Giants – from commentate to leading the cheer section, aptly named ‘The Wannabees’.

However, in what he says is a dream come true, the 29-year-old was selected in the 2020 squad for a debut more than a decade in the making.

Arguably the franchise’s biggest fan, Tom has not missed a home game since 2009.

He had almost given up on his dream of pulling on the Giants singlet before coach Mike Fitchett chose Tom as one of his nine pre-selections in the historic NZNBL draft.

“It’s indescribable, it’s been a long time coming, I have been in the mix for a while but not able to crack a final roster spot but it’s cool to finally get the nod.”

Tom began training with the wider squad in 2014 after switching the golf clubs for a basketball.

“I went on numerous road trips with the team, I’ve helped set up for the games, I lead the Wannabees, I’ve been videographer and home game manager, commentated a few games and trained with the team, but it’s cool to now be in the mix.”

Tom says his love for the franchise stems from its family feel and proud history.

“We have been known to go up against the big boys and come out better off on a lot of occasions.”

Though delighted with his selection, Tom isn’t getting ahead of himself.

“I’m under no illusion that I’m well down the roster, so minutes will be few and far between but any opportunity to put the jersey on will be awesome. If I don’t get a second on the court it will be worth it.”

Tom managed to get time off work at the DB Brewery to take part in the six-week competition.

“I’m pretty happy with my boss at the moment, it was a no brainier for me to throw my name in the draft.”

The towering forward says to play with the likes of Mika Vukona, who he grew up idolising, will be hard to describe.

“Being named in the squad was enough for me, everything else is a bonus.”

Giants Squad:

Mika Vukona, Mike Karena, Dane Brooks, Tom Ingham, Josh Bloxham, Nick Trathen, Riley Bensemann, Tysxun Aiolupotea, Zeb Lovell, Thane O’Leary, Theo Johnson, Tom Garguilo.