Basketball: Wilkinson and Breakers part ways

Two-time Australian NBL champion Gary Wilkinson today confirmed he will not be returning to the Breakers next season. Photo / Getty Images.
Two-time Australian NBL champion Gary Wilkinson today confirmed he will not be returning to the Breakers next season. Photo / Getty Images.

Two-time Australian NBL champion Gary Wilkinson is swapping Auckland's North Shore for Tallinn, Estonia after today signing a one-year deal with Estonian champions BC Kalev/Cramo.

Wilkinson played a key role in the Breakers' back-to-back championships but his departure from the club was widely expected.

The Breakers want to give promising New Zealand centre Alex Pledger a starting role next season, meaning Wilkinson would have to accept a reduction in minutes if he was to stay and seek a three-peat of titles.

That would have been an uncomfortable situation for both player and team, with Wilkinson's salary thought to be much more than could be afforded to a bench player.

The American, who confirmed he was leaving the Breakers on his Facebook page yesterday, led the club with 16.6 points per game last season and his absence will create a gap on the offensive end of the floor.

His departure will allow the Breakers to seek another import, with the team hopeful point guard Cedric Jackson will return to fill the second allowed import position if he fails in his quest to make the NBA.

Wilkinson, 29, leaves the Breakers with two championship rings in two seasons and a reputation as a fan favourite for both his production and frequent displays of enthusiasm on the court.

But he knew the writing was on the wall at the end of last season, and said in April he was happy to hand the reins to Pledger.

"Obviously I've got a lot of years playing in me and if they see Chief [Pledger] as their future then we just have to see how that is going to work. I am more than happy to watch Chief flourish because he deserves it.

"I would love to have a three-peat, but it's a matter of where the organisation is headed and where I fit into the whole scheme of things. With the Chief making huge strides, I would bank on him in the future.''

Wilkinson will join countryman Anthony Nelson on a largely Estonian roster. His new club does have one thing in common with the Breakers - they, too, are back-to-back winners of their domestic league.

- APNZ

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