The curtain may have come down on the Sky Sport Breakers season but there is still plenty of New Zealand interest in the Australian National Basketball League Play-offs beginning this week.
Three of the four semi-final teams have Tall Blacks on their playing roster while South East Melbourne have no fewer than four.
Two Tall Blacks from the Canterbury Rams players will go against each other when the defending champion Perth Wildcats entertain the Illawarra Hawks on Thursday in one semi-final.
2020 Tall Black Taylor Britt is in his second season at the Wildcats while Max Darling is a rookie at the Hawks.
Game 2 will be in Wollongong on Saturday with the decider, if required, back in Perth on Tuesday June 15.
The other semi-final, also a best of three affair, involves the two Melbourne clubs, Melbourne United and South East Melbourne Phoenix. Unfortunately the Covid issues in Melbourne have seen the games moved to Sydney beginning Friday.
Tall Black point guard Shea Ili is a key figure for regular season champions Melbourne United. In his second season with United, Ili is a key part of Coach Dean Vickerman’s rotation averaging 7 points and 2 assists per game. His three-point shooting percentage is a lofty 43%.
The South East Melbourne Phoenix have Tall Blacks Reuben Te Rangi, Yanni Wetzell, Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa and Mike Karena on their roster as well as Tall Blacks Assistant Coach Judd Flavell on their coaching staff.
Both Wetzell and Le’afa have been sensational in their rookie professional gigs. Wetzell has played all 36 regular season games, starting on most occasions – he averages 11.2 points and 6 rebounds per game.
Signed as a Development Player Le’afa has been a revelation. He has earned more and more minutes with his defensive prowess a major boost for SEM.
Still only 26-years old, Reuben Te Rangi has well over 200 NBL appearances under his belt. In his first season at SEM, following stints with the Breakers and Brisbane Bullets, he is averaging 6.8 points per game.
Mike Karena was signed mid-season as an injury replacement and has played 15 games to date.
The Tall Blacks wish all the players the best of luck during the play-offs.