Last year the New Zealand Breakers won the NBL Championship for the 4th time in 5 years! Led by Cedric Jackson the Breakers where almost unstoppable. Which is why their off-season may be a little less interesting than some… Why mess with success right?
Ekene Ibekwe (Melbourne), Rhys Carter (Sydney)
Charles Jackson (College, Import), Shane McDonald (SEABL).
Ekene Ibekwe was practically etched into New Zealand basketball lore when he nailed the series clinching basket with 1.2 seconds left on the clock, delivering the Breakers their 4th title in 5 year. However when Ekene Ibekwe announced months later that he would not return to defend the Breakers title Dean Vickeman’s recruitment process went into over drive.
Who would be able to fill that void, particularly in a league where it seemed every NBL squad decided to get an Australian Boomers / Euroleague level big man to play in the post ie. Daniel Kickert (Melbourne) Nathan Jawai (Perth), AJ Ogilvy (Illawarra), Julian Khazzouh (Sydney) all have Australian Boomers and International careers on their resume.
So Vickerman headed straight to the US with the hope of finding a candidate who could replace Ibekwe and his 12 points, 6 rebounds per game (as well as his effective 60% field goal percentage).
It was during a Philadelphia 76ers summer league game that Vickerman found his muse, an athletic 2.08cm forward who went undrafted by NBA teams despite an impressive junior season with Tennessee Tech. In 30 games (all starts) Jackson averaged 13.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.
Jackson who decided to forego his senior eligibility to elect for the NBA draft will no doubt be looking to use the Breakers as a spring board to achieve his goal of playing in the NBA. Something the NBL has become quite adept at helping players to do in recent times (see James Ennis, Scottie Wilbekin, etc.).
Ekene Ibekwe Buzzer Beater
Despite three limited NBL attempts with Singapore (2007-08), Melbourne (2009) and Perth (2012) Shane McDonald had decided to move on from any NBL dreams he may have had and was comfortable schooling opposition in the second-tier SEABL league and teaching at the successful Maribyrnong College Sports program.
That was until he was contacted by Breakers coach Dean Vickerman who was offering him another shot at his NBL dream.
Vickerman first met McDonald when he was an assistant coach for the Victorian under-20 team when McDonald teamed with Andrew Bogut and interestingly Rhys Carter, the player he would replace, to win the national championship in 2003.
The last time McDonald played in the NBL he averaged 7.9 points, 2.5 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. Although the last time he played a full season was during the 2007/08 season, so age and young legs were on his side, how he handles a return to the NBL level will be interesting to see.
McDonald will most likely be an 8-10 man for the team and will play behind Cedric Jackson and Corey Webster at the two guard spots. McDonald is a decent shooter that isn’t afraid to shoot the ball while being skilled at using screens to deliver a basket or set up a play. McDonald’s passing ability and all round talent has allowed him to nail a regular spot in the team’s rotation, however his ability to guard upper echelon import guards in this league will be something that remains to be seen.
Despite it being a clear downgrade (and no doubt a cost cutting effort) to swap Carter for “comeback kid” McDonald I wouldn’t expect the Breakers to suffer in the least. The minutes available at back-up guard will no doubt be greatly reduced this season as a result of the strong play of with Corey Webster (who has been contacted already by multiple NBA teams after his performance in the FIBA Oceania Championships). With Cedric Jackson already playing 33 minutes per game and Webster likely to play similar or greater minutes, you would expect a total of 10-15 minutes per game being available for Shane McDonald which is a short stint he will no doubt be able to manage confidently.
SKYCITY Breakers Player Profile: Corey Webster
Overall the Breakers have had a satisfactory off-season and have been able to rest on their recruiting laurels after an impressive off-season last year which saw them sign the majority of their roster to multi-year deals.
Picking up Jackson was a nice addition and if his ability to play defence and crash the boards translates from college to the NBL we should see another successful season where the Breakers finish in the top three.
Either way the road to the NBL championship continues to runs through New Zealand and if any team wants to win the title, it’s clear they won’t be able to do it without a number of victories at Vector Arena.
Off Season Scorecard: C
Editor’s Note: You wonder why Shane McDonald was the player chosen to replace Rhys Carter. As the FIBA Oceania series has shown us there were plenty of talented guards without an NBL contract in the Breakers backyard, ie. Jarrod Kenny, Everard Bartlett, etc.