Category: News

Photo of Zico during 2018 Season

Basketball: Hawke’s Bay franchise extend Zico Coronel’s tenure as coach for another year

The Hawke’s Bay basketball franchise has reappointed coach Zico Coronel for another season.

Coronel is back at the helm of the Taylor Corporation Hawks team after taking them to the playoffs of the Sal’s Pizza National Basketball League this year.

“It’s for another year so it’s really a year by year for us in this game,” says franchise board chairman Keith Price.

Price says Coronel, in his rookie head coach season this year, has done enough to warrant his re-selection.

“I hope we’ll go up another notch this time,” he says, acknowledging the Hawks have incrementally made improvements after a “real bad year of regrouping”.

The Jarrod Kenny-captained Hawks succumbed 99-73 to the Cigna Wellington Saints in their semifinal in the capital city in early August.

“I didn’t like the fact that we had got beaten conclusively in the semi,” says Price.

The Hawks have identified some issues they need to address as they attempt to build on the core of last season’s squad.

The franchise has re-signed shooting guard Dion Prewster and swingman Ethan Rusbatch and is working on seeking the signatures of others.

“We’ve signed the core from last [season] which is what we always wanted to do in getting some continuity,” says Price, who also is a Napier City councillor.

While Australian centre Angus Brandt was outstanding, he believes, there’s a need to do better with another import after American power forward Jamie Skeen didn’t fit the mould.

Price says it’s imperative to be a lot more discerning in selecting imports.

“We’ll have to have that view that you have to front up,” he says, alluding to the adage that “imports sometimes lose their height in the flight”.

“If they lose it on the flight then they may get the chance to put it back on the flight home very quickly.”

Hawks Centre Angus Brandt

Nelson Giants bring Hawks crashing down to earth in NBL clash at Trafalgar Centre

High from a hard-fought battle the night before, the Hawks became road kill 24 hours later at the house of the Nelson Giants.

The Mike Pero-sponsored Giants smashed Taylor Corporation Hawks 101-78 at the Trafalgar Centre in week six of the Sal’s National Basketball League.

The hosts pretty much did the job without much input from Tall Blacks captain Mika Vukona who only got on the court for a shade under five minutes.

The Jamie Pearl man-coached Giants made it abundantly clear what their intentions were from the opening whistle claiming the first quarter 21-10, second 30-19 and the third 27-23.

The visitors claimed the final spell 26-23 but it was painfully obvious Australian mentor Pearlman had applied the mercy rule because the points were well and truly in the bag.

Kyle Adnam claimed a game-high 23 points while Damon Heuir contributed 18 points to help secure Nelson’s seventh victory for the season as they shuffled to the top rung, two ahead of defending champions Cigna Wellington Saints although they have played a fewer game.

If lethargy was a factor for the Jarrod Kenny-skippered Hawks after the ding-dong battle against the Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams last night then coach Zico Coronel has his work cut out in convincing his troops the need to man up for two consecutive nights because that’s what they’ll need on the road if they make the Final Four playoffs this NBL season.

If the Hawks had hung their hats on the pillar of defence against the Rams then leaking a three-figure total to Nelson raises a few questions.

To be kept below 80 points also poses questions on whether the offensive department had had a good night’s sleep in their motel.

However, it didn’t help the visitors’ cause when Australian import centre Angus Brandt got called for a technical foul in the second quarter to rob him of further play in the remaining minutes that spell.

Hawks Coach Zico Coronel
The face of Hawks coach Zico Coronel needs no interpretation in the game against Nelson Giants tonight. Photo/Photosport

The hosts didn’t need a second invite to feast on the lack of big man presence, especially Heuir who had racked up 18 points (4/5 from outside the arc) to help the Giants post a 22-point gulf heading into the locker rooms.

That margin gave Nelson captain Sam Dempster and his merry men the licence to thrill in the second half. They went into overdrive to chance their arm, especially from downtown, to establish a shooting statistics of 17 three pointers from 34 attempts compared with the Hawks’ six from 23.

Finn Delany, who didn’t play in the Giants’ loss to Hawks in Napier last month, scored 17 points, collected eight off the glass and claimed four steals while Jerry Evans Jnr joined the big bash with 15 points.

Vukona, making his first appearance for his hometown since 2015,is reportedly working towards assuming the mantle of player/assistant coach.

Despite his down time, Brandt top scored for the Hawks with 20 points. First-season swingman Ethan Rusbatch, after an emotionally-charged clash against his hometown last night, added 16 points.

Hyrum Harris came off the bench to add 14 points to remind Coronel he was there if called on.

Kenny claimed a double-double with 11 assists to add to his 11 points.

Hawks' Jamie Skeen vs Giants' Mika Vukona
Hawks American import Jamie Skeen searches for a different dialect as Giants player Mika Vukona says talk to my hand at Trafalgar Centre, Nelson, tonight. Photo/Photosport

The Hawks trio of Everard Bartlett, US import forward Jamie Skeen and swingman Dion Prewster went back into winter hibernation for a collective six points.

The loss puts the Hawks to 5-4 and not too flash a record on the road. Their third encounter against the Saints at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, next Sunday will become another litmus test after two losses to the powerhouses in the capital city this season.

Result: Giants 101 (Kyle Adnam 23, Damon Heuir 18, Finn Delany 17) Hawks 78 (Angus Brandt 20, Ethan Rusbatch 16, Hyrum Harris 14).


By: Anendra Singh


Hawks vs Giants

Giants coach Jamie Pearlman wins kudos from Hawks counterpart Zico Coronel

Hawks coach Zico Coronel has urged National Basketball League counterparts to take a leaf out of the manuals of Nelson Giants mentor Jamie Pearlman.

“He’s come from a foreign country and done really well,” said Zico of Pearlman after the Mike Pero-sponsored hosts thumped the Taylor Corporation Hawks 101-78 at Trafalgar Centre in week six of the Sal’s-sponsored NBL on Saturday night.

In his rookie year as head coach after 13 years as an accomplished assistant, Coronel said some coaches often assumed the mantle without much knowledge of the NBL here but the Australian was an exception.

“He has great knowledge of the league and understanding of the officiating in our league,” Coronel said of the 46-year-old from Cairns, who coached the Taipans in the ANBL last season.

Coronel felt Pearlman had done the best job of all the incumbent NBL coaches in adapting to the refereeing in NZ to teach his players how to turn the officiating to their advantage.

“They do the best job of utilising the nature of the refereeing. He gets credit for developing that, among many other things.”

So what is the nature of NBL refereeing in New Zealand?

“They have a lot of room to improve,” said Coronel, revealing Giants forward Mika Vukona, who reportedly has designs on becoming Nelson player/assistant coach, had asked Hawks Australian import centre Angus Brandt how he was finding the NBL.

“He [Vukona] knew what the answer would be because it’s difficult to adjust to a country where it’s been the story of people coming here from other countries for almost 40 years and it continues to be that way,” Coronel said, adding YouTube videos lent credence to that assertion.

“For Jamie to come in this year and understand it, you know, is a great finishing job on his part.”

He said every other NBL mentor needed to look at how they coached and to take a leaf out of Pearlman’s book to work on issues.

Giants coach Jamie Pearlman with his team
Giants coach Jamie Pearlman maps it out for his troops as they went on to overwhelm the Hawks at Trafalgar Centre, Nelson, on Saturday night. Photo / Photosport

Put another way, Coronel said coaches needed to look at how they could develop the game based on the way it was stipulated in the rule books or try to understand how the officials interpreted the rules and their ability to enforce them.

The Hawks could not back up their character-defining 91-76 win over the Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams in Christchurch on Friday, losing the first three quarters 21-10, 30-19 and 27-23, respectively. The visitors won the final spell 26-23 but the hosts had the points well and truly in the bag and were under no pressure to contest anything.

The turning point in the game was when the officials called a technical foul on Brandt in the second quarter to rob him of further play in the remaining minutes that spell.

Coronel felt the Hawks just weren’t good enough rebounding or defensively, which resulted in a blowout that gifted the Giants the luxury of going to their bench.

“We didn’t roll over and we competed much harder, which added a bit more respectability to the scoreline, but, ultimately, not a close game.”

The Hawks had a lot of good looks in the first quarter but didn’t find much love from the rim. Coronel suspected that might have been the product of heavy legs from a double header on the road.

“They shot the ball very well. That is expected because they had looks where you’d expect them to shoot the ball at a good percentage.”

Coronel heaped praise on his captain, Jarrod Kenny, on the grounds that the point guard had played consistently this season regardless of whether the Hawks won or lost.

That was a reflection of Kenny’s experience because he wasn’t just some confidence player but someone who had mental fortitude, the coach said.

While Vukona made only a cameo appearance, Coronel said the Tall Blacks captain’s presence and contribution through leadership should not be underestimated.

Hawks' Ethan Rusbatch and Angus Brandt
Giants player Finn Delany finds himself in a sandwich between Hawks players Angus Brandt (left) and Ethan Rusbatch in Nelson on Saturday. Photo / Photosport

The return from injury of Finn Delany, one of the outstanding players in the NBL, had a huge impact on how the hosts had functioned.

“I guess we had three imports the last time we played them so we’re not quite at the same strength we were at then.”

Coronel felt the Hawks had won the important game of the double headers against a quality Rams who had lost only one game before the tip off.

However, with five teams in contention for the final four playoffs it was imperative for the Hawks to remain on track.

■ Result: Giants 101 (Kyle Adnam 23pts, 6 asts; Damon Heuir 18pts, 5 reb, 5 asts; Finn Delany 17pts, 8 reb) Hawks 78 (Angus Brandt 20pts; Ethan Rusbatch 16pts, 6 reb; Hyrum Harris 14pts, 6reb, 3 blks; Jarrod Kenny 11pts, 11 asts, 6 reb).


By Anendra Singh


Rams and Hawks skirmish

Hawks put Canterbury Rams on the barbie despite skirmish in the second half

The result was never a done deal but the hosts pulling out the knuckle dusters in the octane-fuelled lanes of contention was always a given in Christchurch tonight.

That’s because the Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams coach Mark Dickel, a former Tall Black point guard, didn’t take prisoners in his playing days and wouldn’t have any qualms about his troops questioning the pedigree of any opposition players coming to Cowles Stadium to think they could simply roll up and walk away with two points.

To their credit, Taylor Corporation Hawks didn’t take a step back last night in their 91-76 victory in week six of the Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) match.

It probably didn’t help that homeboy Ethan Rusbatch now preens his feathers with the Hawks but, needless to say, the skirmish didn’t overshadow the proceedings as the Hawks have a chance to leapfrog the hosts on the table to find their perch among the top four again from fifth place.

Hawks coach Zico Coronel said Tall Black Rusbatch, who scored 22 points and made nine assists, had an army of loyal fans behind him after the second-half dust up.

“I guess when you have shared many moments together, positive and negative, then you really form a bond with that person so I guess they are two people you don’t want to lose to as their friends or their enemies.

“You’ll have to ask Ethan which one he considers which one but he very much didn’t want to lose tonight. He is really a champion person,” said Coronel who met Rusbatch’s mother, Sharon, of Christchurch, and was delighted to impress on her the swingman was always a gifted player but the Bay franchise signed him because he was a good human.

Okay that was cryptic but, loosely translated, it meant Cowles Stadium is the Rams’ house but Rusbatch also knows where the dirty linens are kept and had every intention of chucking them into the spindry cycle in the laundry.

Rusbatch’s professionalism was something Taranaki coach Trent Adams had impressed on Coronel in 2014.

“I think that he’s such a quality human being that the boys rally around him to make sure he got a win so that’s probably where a little bit of the feelings came from.”

Hawks players Jamie Skeen and Ethan Rusbatch
Hawks US import Jamie Skeen (left) acknowledges the input of teammate Ethan Rusbatch at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch, tonight. Photo/Photosport

The 25-year-old Gold Coast Commonwealth Games bronze medallist had life-long friends who were prepared to sacrifice their Friday night to support him, which also was a testimony to his character.

Coronel said the Rams had got “a little bit sulky”, which was something they needed to be if they were going to change the nature of the game.

“It was another thing for us to be proud of because it could have gone one of two ways in terms of losing the plot or glavanising us.

“Our focus was very good, we were united and we didn’t get distracted when they came with their runs because we were able to minimise it as much as possible to maintain the lead into the beginning of the fourth quarter.”

He felt it was a vital clash to define the parameters of the Final Four playoffs so no love was going to be lost on either side.

Coronel said it always felt like captain Jarrod Kenny and his men had taken ownership despite Rams import Julian Williams-Washburn claiming a match-high 24 points, dropping five out of six shots from downtown.

“He was shooting the ball very well and we knew he could,” he said of the forward coming off a season with Austin Spurrs in the United States.

Coronel also lauded a toiling Rams import Winston Shepard III who scored 18 points, took nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals.

“He was probably the danger and threat and had his moments but I guess we kept him in check,” he said.

With the Rams falling into foul trouble and the Hawks putting up the shutters, the hosts were toast.

He singled out Kenny and swingman Dion Prewster for having the number of Xavier Thames, who settled for a quiet night, although the Hawks coach expected him to come back stronger the next time.

Rams player Taylor Britt tries to barge through Hawks forward Mitch Newton
Rams player Taylor Britt tries to barge through Hawks forward Mitch Newton (left) guard Everard Bartlett at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch, tonight. Photo/Photosport

It pleased him immensely that the Hawks had kept a leash on the Cantabrians in every quarter bar the third, below the 20 threshold. That was because of an intense defence drill on Tuesday.

Kenny had another strong game with 18 points, which included 100 per cent rate of four three pointers, and Angus Brandt added 20 to the collective. Prewster chimed in with 13 points and US import power forward Jamie Skeen contributed nine.

The Hawks, who move to five wins and three losses, play the Mike Pero Nelson Giants in a 7pm tipoff at Trafalgar Centre tomorrow night.

Coronel said while the Hawks had lost two games in a row they had to be put in perspective because they were against last year’s finalists.

While the Hawks weren’t good enough to beat the teams on those nights, he said it was vital to note a lot of their tough games were bracketed in the front end of the season.

“Those are games that most teams have lost to the [Cigna Wellington] Saints and the [SIT Zerofees Southland] Sharks on the road but, maybe, haven’t played them yet or just one of them, not three.”

Tonight’s victory gave the Hawks the licence to clarify that assertion.

He said the Giants will be tough tomorrow night with outgoing former New Zealand Breakers hardman and Tall Black captain Mika Vukona back in the equation.

“He wasn’t intending to play to play but I think it’s the measure of the importance of this game looking at the playoffs.”

Hawks Australian import centre Angus Brandt dunks the ball
Hawks Australian import centre Angus Brandt dunks the ball on Rams import Max Darling at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch, tonight. Photo/Photosport

Having beaten them last month, Coronel said locking horns with the Giants again tomorrow was a good test as a double header because, after all, the Final Four playoffs was also of that ilk.

“The last time they were on the night of a back-to-back [match] but this time they’ve been laying in wait.”

He said it wasn’t just about energy and recovery but also about time so the Hawks support staff were doing the ground work.

In the other game, the Sharks had a comfortable 92-71 victory over the Augusta Taranaki Mountainairs in Invercargill tonight.

Result: Rams 76 (Julian Williams-Washburn 24 pts, 6 reb; Winston Shepard III 18 pts, 9 reb, 8 asts; Maxwell Darling 11 pts) Hawks 91 (Ethan Rusbatch 22 pts, 9 asts; Angus Brandt 20 pts, 6 reb; Jarrod Kenny 18 pts, 6 reb, 7 asts; Dion Prewster 13 pts, 6 reb; 4 asts; Jamie Skeen 9 pts, 2 blks).

Quarters (Rams first), 1st: 18-24. 2nd: 35-43 (17-22). 3rd: 45-47 (28-25). Final: 76-91 (13-23).


By: Anendra Singh


Saints vs Hawks

Wellington Saints pip Hawks but hosts’ point guard, Shea Ili, the difference

The score and the statistics go a long way in showing how close the game was and Hawks coach Zico Coronel wholeheartedly agreed with that tonight.

But don’t ever mistake Coronel’s dulcet, measured tone for contentment after Cigna Saints pipped the Taylor Corporation-sponsored Hawke’s Bay franchise team 80-77 in week five of the Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) match in Wellington yesterday.

“No, not content. We have high expectations of ourselves so to just come and lose to anybody … yes, Saints are a good team but no, we’re not content with that.”

That is not to say he didn’t think the Jarrod Kenny-captained outfit wouldn’t take something away from any encounter.

It was the visitors’ second loss on the trot and their third in the campaign while the hosts carved up their fifth consecutive win after one loss. Saints had their measure 93-85 at the TSB Arena a fortnight ago but the Hawks will have a chance to redeem themselves when they reload at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Napier, on Sunday, June 10, in a 3pm tip off after playing The Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch, in a 7pm start this Friday and the Mike Pero Nelson Giants at the same time the following night at Trafalgar Centre in a double header.

Coronel said it hardly mattered whether a team lost by a sliver or, as they did to the SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks in Invercargill the previous Saturday, by a yawning 30-point margin.

“There’s no way you can play the perfect game because there’s always things to improve on,” he said, mindful a side could savour championship glory on imperfections with a finite time invested in players.

Coronel said he and Go Media Manawatu Jets coach Tim McTamney were going through the score ratings in the NBL on Saturday and how high they were and removed from the other leagues in the world.

“There’s very little defence played in our league so this game [v Saints] was a complete contrast – very low scoring, very grinding and much more like a playoff game than any other game probably played in our league so far this year.”

Saints point guard Shea Ili, who claimed a game-high 27 points, again proved to be the Hawks’ nemesis.

LJ Peak scored 19 points while Majok Majok added a double-double 13 points and 15 rebounds to the Saints’ cause.

Saints forward Majok Majok and Hawks centre Angus Brandt
Saints forward Majok Majok (with ball) and Hawks centre Angus Brandt got double-doubles. Photo/Photosport

Hawks’ Boomer centre, Angus Brandt, emulated Majok’s feat with 19 points and 13 off the glass while Tall Black Ethan Rusbatch scored 18. Point guard Kenny gleaned 14 points and veteran shooting guard Everard Bartlett added 11 off the bench.

The intensity of the match saw him and Saints coach Kevin Braswell use key players for a lion’s share of the game because of its playoff nature. BJ Anthony (Saints) got 5:44 minutes while Hawks veteran Kareem Johnson didn’t come off the bench at all.

“The runs from this game were pretty small. Both teams’ longest scoring run was nine points so it was very close and if anyone would have had a significant one it would have been the game.”

The Saints had rolled out Anthony, on a plus/minus one, which was deceptive but the last time the Hawks were able to exploit him and that might have been on the minds of Braswell and Co.

So how do you put a leash on Ili?

“That is going to be the story for them [Saints],” Coronel said, revealing both sides were struggling to score at the start of the third quarter.

“We’re talking about someone who, about four years ago, was playing for a bad Rangers team as a back-up guard where you would literally guard him in the key and he would bail them out.

“You could simply say they [Saints] had Shea Ili and we didn’t.”

He lauded the New Zealand Breakers player for taking something that was a weakness, that is shooting, for him and turning it into a weapon.

“He is beginning to reap the rewards of that work by being a winner more often than not. He’s going to be the MVP of our league because he proves that night after night.

“We try to minimise him more than most because he’s been averaging nine and half free throws a game,” he said, backing it up with other miserly statistics that backed up his claims.

Coronel said he didn’t expect individuals to boost their deposits in Hawks’ bank because it was unreasonable for players to do that every game.

For example, Hawks swingman Dion Prewster managed seven points in 28:47 minutes but he felt as long as he was aggressive his teammates would rally around him.

“We’ll have your back, make or miss as long as you make the right decisions,” he said.

Ditto US import power forward Jamie Skeen who, in 32:40 minutes, made only two points and took three rebounds after scoring 29 in the sides’ encounter.

Coronel felt the hosts would have made Skeen a special part of their preparation yesterday with Saints captain Leon Henry would have taken exception to their last match up and ensuring there was no repeat yesterday.

The American, who hobbled off with an ankle injury, had shot a basket from six attempts but the coach felt it wasn’t enough to gauge his worth on such lean pickings.

Hawks Coach Zico Coronel congratulates Saints coach Kevin Braswell
Hawks coach Zico Coronel congratulates Saints counterpart Kevin Braswell but says they are never content regardless of how close the scores are in a loss. Photo/Photosport

Coronel had no qualms about playing a double header next on the proviso that the court dimensions would remain the same.

“Ultimately we will have to win on the road so it’s a great challenge for us. You probably couldn’t design a harder stretch of games in our league than the one we’re in the midst of now.”

Staying unified and optimistic with a penchant for learning was his edict to capitalise before facing the table-topping, one-loss Rams first up.

“They pose a significant challenge and their three imports are first, second and third in the league in minutes so they have been very productive.

“However, the story of their season is young Maxwell Darling, who is 17 years old, who has probably been the key because they were perceptively going to be lacking in Kiwi talent.”

Learning about Canterbury in an attempt to be better than the hosts would be on the agenda, he said.

Cigna Saints 80 (Shea Ili 27pts, 4 reb, 4 assts; LJ Peak 19pts; Majok Majok 13, 11reb) Taylor Corporation Hawks 77 (Angus Brandt 19pts, 13reb; Ethan Rusbatch 18pts, 4reb; Jarrod Kenny 14pts, 5reb, 3 assts; Everard Bartlett 11pts).

Quarters (Saints first), 1st: 14-20. 2nd: 38-40 (24-20). 3rd: 54-53 (16-13). Final: 80-77 (26-24).


By: Anendra Singh


Hawks power forward Mitch Newton

Mitch Newton making most of court time in debut season with Hawks in the NBL

Mitch Newton, by his own admission, was a late bloomer in elite basketball but that does not mean he’s running late in the high-octane lanes of contention.

Oh no, it simply means Newton is only just getting started while everyone else has been charging full steam ahead.

“I did start playing when I was like 15 but even then, I was pretty average,” says the 22-year-old from Gore as the Taylor Corporation Hawks prepare to tip off against defending champions Cigna Saints in their round five Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) match at the TSB Bank Arena in Wellington in a 3pm tip off tomorrow.

“I did try but I just didn’t make the Southland under-17s and they had a B team and I just didn’t make it either, so I wasn’t that good.”

But the genes kicked in in 2012 for the year 12 pupil who had enjoyed a growth spurt so “I grew into my body a bit more, I guess”.

It’s that sort of patience, on the platform of hard work, that has slowly but surely hardened his template in the NBL.

The Saints and Hawks are reloading at the same venue after the Saints won 93-85 a fortnight ago, bearing in mind it’s hard enough to beat the perennial champions anywhere.

However, the hosts didn’t have it easy in the previous encounter, having to reel in the Hawks 28-15 in the final quarter. They found the Hawks’ latest import signing, power forward Jamie Skeen, a handful as he racked up 29 points.

Wellington have bullied the Hawks as of late, winning the past eight games and proudly wearing the badge of honour in not having conceded a match on home turf since 2011.

But Newton hastens to add playing them at TSB Arena again need not be a bad thing as the Hawks look for a rash of games at the back end of the season at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale.

“Not much did go right. It was disappointing to lose down there,” he says of the 104-74 trouncing they received at the hands of the SIT Zerofees Sharks at ILT Stadium in Invercargill last Saturday.

Reflecting on the clash, he feels the Jarrod Kenny-captained Hawks didn’t follow the script closely enough as they take stock after losing two of their last three outings.

Guards Dion Prewster and Ethan Rusbatch will need to come to the party with all their bells and whistles after lean pickings against the Sharks.

“We just lacked a little bit of energy, I guess, and they [Sharks] just came out firing.”

The 1.99m power forward agrees it’s never easy to win on the road.

The collective mantra is to play their game and trust their systems in a bid to finish clinically.

Point guard Kenny is coming off a season-high 18 points against the Sharks and scored one fewer against the Saints but his preoccupation tomorrow will be to try to contain a rampant Shea Ili, who accrued 26 points and eight assists against the Hawks in week three.

Newton attests to the ideology of everyone fulfilling the roles stipulated in their portfolios.

“If everyone is like finding their roles and knowing where to get their shots and things like that, then we’ll be gelling a little bit more.”

Averaging 15 minutes a game so far this season in his debut for the Hawks, he is refreshingly honest that more court time would be better.

Hawks coach Zico Coronel had approached him last year when he was with the New Zealand Breakers development team.

Newton, who represented the Southland Sharks for four seasons, harbours ambitions of plying his trade in the Australian National Basketball League and the Tall Blacks but isn’t sure where he’s at with the Kevin Braswell-coached Breakers just yet after one game last season where had one free throw.

Newton’s christening, as it were, in basketball began at Archer Stadium, Gore, where aunt and uncle Erin and Peter Howes were on the board.

It was, in fact, the prowess of former Sharks player Peter that took his fancy, although Newton’s mother Diane and Erin also found traction with the hoop.

Not that he ever lacked pedigree because his father, Greg Newton, won a world softball title with the Black Sox in South Africa in 2000.

Mitch Newton says he gave softball a shot for a couple of years, making the cut for Southland age-group teams as a centre outfielder and a little as a batter but couldn’t emulate the feats of his pitcher father.

“I wasn’t anything special,” he says with a laugh.

He always had an affinity with basketball and that took over.

He clarifies that he wasn’t bad at basketball but just someone who strived to incrementally get better year after year before becoming “the best player”.

Ask him if he is too hard on himself perhaps because his father has set the bar pretty high in the family, Newton says: “Ah, I wouldn’t say that … aw, I guess so, I must have tried to be the best I can be.”

He represented Australian team Albury, on the border of New South Wales and Victoria, from February to August last year.

As No 4, Newton can stretch the floor and isn’t shy to find some love with the rims any time he has a look in.

While he has been coming off the bench, he has been making the most of helping finish off games, especially if Australian import centre Angus Brandt finds himself in foul trouble.

“I’ve just got to keep putting in the hard work,” he says.

By: Anendra Singh


Hawks Head Coach Zico Coronel

Hawks need more aggression and consistency

One simple message should be written in bold letters on Hawke’s Bay basketball team coach Zico Coronel’s white board when his troops turn up for training today.


Coronel agreed his players had to be more aggressive in the wake of the Taylor Hawks 104-74 loss to the SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks in their round four Sal’s National Basketball League match in Invercargill on Saturday night.

“It was an old fashioned beat down and they played better. For the whole game they were more aggressive. They were on the front foot from the start,” Coronel lamented.

“We’ve got a collective plan and we know what we need to do. Sometimes it takes something like that to put everyone on notice … to have a think about how much better we need to be.”

“It’s good to know we have an opportunity to address it,” Coronel said, referring to their next match against the Saints in the capital on Sunday. Saints beat the Hawks 93-85 in Wellington on May 11 and will do the same again if the Hawks don’t display a bit more mongrel like they did in their May 12 89-85 win against the Nelson Giants.

On Saturday night the Hawks conceded 28 turnovers, 15 more than the Sharks.

“Turnovers are the result of fundamental errors,” Coronel said, and he’s not wrong.

He pointed out the Sharks owed the Hawks a win after the Hawks beat them 92-84 on April 26. But the Hawks have far too much talent to allow teams to beat them in the way the Sharks, who are coached by former Hawks player Judd Flavell, did.

The Hawks, who have recorded four wins and two losses to date, have already proven they are good enough to reach the playoffs but they need to regain some consistency again.

“The Sharks are a very balanced team. They have the biggest budget and a lot of depth. Six of their players were in double figures tonight … that’s the nature of their team,” Coronel said after addressing his players following the loss.

“Their collective defence was a big factor too,” he added.

The fact three of the Hawks starting five, American power forward Jamie Skeen and shooting guards Dion Prewster and Ethan Rusbatch, contributed sevens points with four, two and one respectively made dismal post-match reading for Hawks fans. Hawks captain and point guard Jarrod Kenny scored a game-high 18 points during his 30 minutes of action.

Aussie centre Angus Brandt scored 15 points during 24 minutes while former Tall Blacks shooting guard Everard Reid came off the bench for 21 minutes and scored 11 points.

Just as disappointing for Hawks fans was the ability of the hosts to establish a 35-point lead at one stage. Sharks centre Alex Pledger scored a team high 17 points in 18 minutes.

Canadian forward Conor Morgan, who collected a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, scored 12 points in 24 minutes. The Sharks also boast a four-win, two-loss record.

The Sharks managed 10 steals, four more than the Hawks, which is another example of the Hawks’ lack of aggression. Allowing the Sharks to score 13 unanswered points at one stage was another.

Five unanswered points contributed to the Hawks’ best run.
Leading scorers:
SIT Zerofees Sharks 104 (Alex Pledger 17, James Hunter 16, Luke Aston 15), Taylor Hawks 74 (Jarrod Kenny 18, Angus Brandt 15, Everard Bartlett 11).


By: Shane Hurndell


Jamie Skeen lining up a shot

Skeen’s ready to get physical with Sharks

Hawke’s Bay basketball import Jamie Skeen has played in eight countries but it has never been his preferred sport.

“I’ve played basketball since I was 11 back home in Charlottesville. I’ve loved it my whole life … everyone wanted to be like Michael Jordan,” power forward Skeen explained before the Taylor Hawks trained at Karamu High School last night in the countdown to tomorrow night Sal’s National Basketball League round four clash against the Southland Sharks in Invercargill.

“But football was my favourite sport. I wanted to be like my dad Eric who played college football. However I didn’t play it long enough … just one year. I was so small and skinny my parents thought I was going to break something and pulled me out. My mum Jacqueline was a nervous wreck,” the now 2.03m Skeen said.

His trial with the Hawks while he awaits the outcome of a visa application follows stints in France, Israel, Italy, Belgium, Finland, Puerto Rico and Kosovo. Skeen has played in four of the Hawks five matches to date and missed the first round 92-84 win against the SIT Zerofees Sharks.

“I’m really happy here and the Hawks are a great team. Of all the countries I’ve been to this is the one I could move to the most. Everyone speaks English and it’s easy to adapt to the food. The toughest part is the driving … but I’m getting used to that.”

Like so many Americans who play in New Zealand, Skeen, said the biggest challenge is adapting to the high physicality levels.

“I have to get physical and not worry about the refs. I can’t worry about being fouled, I have to focus on securing the ball to help my teammates out. I can’t worry about stuff I can’t control.”

Skeen, 29, admitted to knowing nothing about the Sharks.

“We’ve still got two days to study up on them. I’ve heard they’ve got some really big boys who aren’t that fast. Hopefully I can work around them at the post.”

Whether it’s before or after the game Skeen is eager to try some Bluff Oysters in Invercargill.

“I just want to see what all the hype is about.”

Hawks head coach Zico Coronel has opted to take 10 players south today. Aussie power forward Oscar Forman is unavailable and back home in Australia. Coronel is uncertain whether Forman will return to the Hawks nest.

After last weekend’s two games which resulted in a win against Nelson and loss to the Saints Coronel is seeking improvement in his troops defensive systems.

“I’m looking for better execution under pressure and better ball screen coverage.”

“We haven’t had a big week of training after our doubleheader. It was important to get good recovery in and that is why tonight’s session was short and sharp. We will train down in Invercargill tomorrow,” Coronel said last night.

Yesterday his team conducted a skills session for 370 students at Central Hawke’s Bay College.

“We had a fun time but it was draining at the same time and that was another reason tonight’s session was short and sharp.”

Coronel is expecting the Sharks to be tougher than they were in round one at Taradale. Since then they have added Canadian forward Conor Morgan to their roster.

Morgan played for Canada when they won silver at the Commonwealth Games following a win against the Tall Blacks in their semifinal and loss to Australia in the final.

“Southland were already the biggest team in the league. Now their squad has become deeper and much more skilled.”

“Everyone knows about the atmosphere created by the Sharks fans in Invercargill. That can also help the road team and the Sharks are hard to play no matter where you play them.”

Taylor Hawks: Jarrod Kenny (captain), Jamie Skeen, Angus Brandt, Everard Bartlett, Ethan Rusbatch, Dion Prewster, Nick Fee, Mitchell Newton, Hyrym Harris, Kareem Johnson.
SIT Zerofees Sharks: Luke Aston, Orlando Coleman, James Hunter, Conor Morgan, Alex Pledger, Derone Raukawa, Reuben Te Rangi, Tom Vodanovich, Jarrad Weeks, Conor Morgan..


By: Shane Hurndell

– NZHerald

Hawks captain Jarrod Kenny

Hawks guard Ethan Rusbatch back to aggressive best

Ethan Rusbatch reckons he got more than a few dirty looks from his Hawks basketball teammates during the side’s first National Basketball League loss of the season in Wellington on Friday night.

They were justified too. The Taylor Hawks shooting guard struggled to replicate his previous form in the Sal’s NBL as the Hawks were beaten 93-85 by Cigna Saints.

Fortunately for Rusbatch, 25, normal transmission resumed when the Hawks returned to Taradale’s Pettigrew-Green Arena to take on unbeaten Mike Pero Nelson Giants on Saturday night. Rusbatch produced a player-of-the-match display in the Hawks’ 89-85 victory.

The aggression the 2017 Canterbury Rams co-skipper lacked the previous night returned and he finished with 20 points including five three-pointers, three rebounds and an assist.

“We didn’t execute the game plan last night but we did what the coach wanted us to do tonight,” Rusbatch said as he signed autographs afterwards.

While he was quick to acknowledge the contribution from a near-capacity crowd he also praised the Giants for the effort they put in after a difficult day. The Giants arrived in Napier five hours after originally scheduled following a flight delay in Auckland as they flew to Auckland on Saturday morning after their win against Taranaki in New Plymouth on Friday night.

Hawks head coach Zico Coronel had every right to praise his team’s improved final quarter effort after a sloppy final 10 the previous night.

“At the same time we do not know if we have made the necessary improvements yet and we won’t know until we play a team with the same tempo as the Saints.”

Coronel, like Rusbatch, heaped kudos on the Giants.

“They’ve gone from a team with four wins and 14 losses last season to championship contenders. We were lucky to get them tonight without their experienced power forward Finn Delaney who was unavailable and before Mika Vukona joins them. And that Damon Heuir did what so many Aussies do in this league … he is one hell of a player.”

Shooting guard Heuir scored a game-high 27 points and was full of speed and aggression similar to the previous week’s player-of-the-league, point guard Kyle Adnam, who finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists.

Losing centre Tohi Smith-Milner early in the second half with an injury also didn’t help the visitors’ cause.

The Hawks led 22-20 after the first quarter. Aussie centre Angus Brandt was full of authority under the boards during this period but was fouled out of the match after 15 minutes of action.

Coronel gave Brandt’s minutes to forward Mitchell Newton and he responded with big plays, including a three in the fourth quarter. Newton finished with eight points, including two free throws from as many attempts.

Former Tall Blacks guard Everard Bartlett was another to shine off the bench and this quality of depth will prove valuable to the Hawks at the business end of the season.

The Giants held a one-point lead briefly in the second quarter and this was the first time they hit the front since scoring the first points of the match. The hosts led 41-39 at halftime.

Hawke’s Bay took a 63-62 lead into the fourth quarter after an intense third quarter. When Hawks shooting guard Dion Prewster sunk a three-pointer against his 2017 team to give the hosts an 81-73 lead with 1m 54s left on the clock it was a case of game over and party time for Bay supporters.

It was appropriate Prewster should have the final say with two free throws. He top-scored for the Hawks with 22 points.

Hawks captain Jarrod Kenny was more authoritative with his organisation during the closing minutes of Saturday night’s match than he was the previous night. Giants captain and centre Sam Dempster was again mongrel-like and secured nine rebounds and nine points.

It will be a surprise if these two teams are missing come semifinal time in the league.
Leading scorers:
Taylor Hawks 89 (Dion Prewster 22, Ethan Rusbatch 20, Jarrod Kenny 11), Mike Pero Nelson Giants 85 (Damon Heuir 27, Kyle Adnam 18, Jerry Evans Jnr 14). QT: 22-20. HT: 41-39. 3rd QT: 63-62.


By: Shane Hurndell


Hawks vs Giants


A strong fourth quarter from the Taylor Hawks has them return to the top of the table with a 89-85 win over the Mike Pero Nelson Giants.

The guard duo of Dion Prewster (22 points) and Ethan Rusbatch (20 points) carried the Hawks tonight, both combining for seven points in a pivotal stretch in the fourth which gave them a comfortable enough buffer to hold onto the win.

Some late three’s from Damon Heuir put the visitors within four, but there would not be enough time for Giants as they suffer their first loss of the season. Heuir ended the game with 27 points and Kyle Adamn added 18, but tonight was going to be a struggle for the Giants who coming off a tough win over Taranaki the night before.

Nelson were already shorthanded with no Finn Delany, and then they suffered another blow losing Tohi Smith-Milner for the second half

Nelson did manage to compete for the majority of the contest as the Hawks biggest lead going into the fourth was only six. The game could have gone either way when centre Angus Brandt would foul out, playing only 15 mins, but head coach Zico Coronel decided to give forward Mitchell Newton Brandt’s minutes and he replied with some big plays which included a three in the fourth.

The Hawks now move to 4-1, and will have a big test next week when they face the SIT Zerofees Sharks in Invercargill.

Earlier, the Go Media Jets got their first win with a 124-121 upset over the 2 Cheap Cars Supercity Rangers.

The import duo of Kuran Iverson (36 points) and Daishon Knight (36 points) were unstoppable this afternoon, both players getting into the paint at will.

The visitors got off to a quick start, leading 34-20 at quarter time and going up by as many as 19 second, before a Rangers run got them within five. Manawatu would finish the half strong to be up 65-52 by halftime.

Again, every time the Rangers would be within closing distance the Jets would reply with a mini run to push their lead back up to double-digit points.

In the fourth, it looked like the Rangers would take home the game with 1:15 left when Knight would foul out on a Devon Scott three point play. A three from Clay Wilson put the Rangers within two points, but young point guard Haize Walker hit a huge three to put the Jets back up five.

Walker would hit two free throws in the dying stages to make it a two possession ball game and seal what was a gutsy win for the Jets who only two days ago was on the opposite end of the country.

Walker would end the game with 13, and off the bench Theo Johnson would add 10 for Manawatu who shot a season best 60% from the field and 15/25 from three.

The Rangers would be extremely disappointed not to get the win after adding former Kiwi MVP Marcel Jones to the roster. Jones would end the game with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Shooting guard, Wilson, was on fire today with a league high 48 points which included 11/16 from three.

After announcing his retirement at the end of the season, Lindsay Tait, still showed that he has plenty in the tank, tallying a triple-double of 20 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds.

The Rangers will now travel south to play the Augusta Airs tomorrow afternoon, and will need to improve defensively if they wish to end their four game losing streak.

Week 3: Saturday, May 12

At Trusts Arena, Auckland
2 Cheap Cars Supercity Rangers 121 (Clay Wilson 48, Lindsay Tait 20, Devon Scott 19)
Go Media Jets 124 (Daishon Knight 37, Kuran Iverson 36, Haize Walker 13)
Live Stats

At Pettigrew Green Arena, Napier
Taylor Hawks 89 (Dion Prewster 22, Ethan Rusbatch 20, Jarrod Kenny 11)
Mike Pero Nelson Giants 85 (Damon Heuir 27, Kyle Adnam 18, Jerry Evans Jr 14)
Live Stats


Article originally published on NBL New Zealand.