Basketball: Heat warming up for big year

By Steve Deane

The sleeping giant of New Zealand basketball may just have woken up.

Harbour Heat have signalled they will be a serious contender in next year's NZNBL, unveiling Breakers import centre Rick Rickert as a marquee signing in a team to be coached by Breakers assistant Judd Flavell.

The link-up with the Breakers will not end there, with Dillon Boucher a possibility to join Rickert, and the Breakers keen to push players from their development systems into the Harbour ranks.

Boucher has been a mainstay of rival club Auckland Stars for much of his career but he has been locked in a pay dispute with the Tab Baldwin-owned franchise and was believed to be considering a move across town.

If that situation was not resolved, Harbour would be the favourites to secure the veteran forward's services.

A front court of Boucher and Rickert would certainly be a dominant force in the NBL.

Harbour Basketball is the largest association in the country in terms of registered players but that hasn't transferred into results at the elite level.

The area has well-performing schools' and women's teams and has produced top players such as Kirk Penney and Tom Abercrombie, but at NZNBL level the Heat have yet to make a significant impact, often falling at the first hurdle during playoffs.

The recruitment of Rickert and Flavell, and more "significant announcements" that will follow shortly, suggested that was about to change, Harbour Basketball chief executive Steve Dally said.

"This is us putting a line in the sand and saying 'we are serious about winning this league'," Dally said.

"While we have made the playoffs, we have just lacked that little bit of quality to go all the way.

"With Rickert leading our front court I think we have the type of player with the personality to lead the team and inspire those around him to the playoffs and hopefully to a championship.

"And in Judd Flavell I think we have signed a young but potentially very good coach."

Flavell said: "I need to make the step up at some point and this is a great chance."

- NZ Herald

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