Basketball: Vukona likely to make trip for clash with Taipans

Despite being injured in training yesterday Mika Vukona expects to line up for the Breakers on Sunday. Photo / Richard Robinson
Despite being injured in training yesterday Mika Vukona expects to line up for the Breakers on Sunday. Photo / Richard Robinson

Mika Vukona is expected to play his 150th game for the Breakers this weekend, despite badly rolling his ankle and limping out of training yesterday.

The full extent of the injury is still being established but the club are optimistic he will be available for the Breakers' trip to Cairns on Sunday to take on the side they beat in last season's grand final. Vukona immediately iced his ankle and looked to be in considerable discomfort as he hobbled from the court.

It has already been a disruptive week for the defending ANBL champions. Daryl Corletto pinched a nerve in his shoulder on Tuesday and has been a spectator at training for most of the week, Alex Pledger was absent through illness and point guard Cedric Jackson is managing the ankle injury he picked up last week.

"We have certainly had our challenges this week but every team goes through it," coach Andrej Lemanis said. "I don't think there's anything there that's too major.

It's just a disruption.

"We just need to keep fighting forward. Every season you face these challenges, some more than others, but we can't let it affect us.

"Mika is the only doubtful one. We will find out where he is at. Everyone else is good."

Vukona is an influential player and a key member of the starting five. He contributes 8.3 points (up from 6.5 over his career) and a club-high of 6.1 rebounds a game but it's his energy and commitment which can't be measured. He has a history of playing when given no chance, like when he took on Perth in last season's must-win playoffs game even though he had badly injured knee ligaments. It inspired his teammates to win and they went on to claim their first championship.

"If Mika has anything to do with it, he will play," Lemanis said.

The Breakers need to improve massively from the mis-firing side who succumbed badly to Wollongong last Friday. They went into the match as overwhelming favourites but couldn't buy a basket in an ugly 81-63 defeat.

They shot only 30 per cent from the field and scored a measly 39 points in the final three quarters.

Lemanis can normally tell if his side is in the right space leading into a match and he's encouraged by what he has seen this week.

It will help that it will be Lemanis' 200th game in charge of the Breakers and that Vukona (150), CJ Bruton (100) and Alex Pledger (50) all bring up significant milestones this weekend - if they play.

They have fed off emotional moments this season, such as the banner-raising and first game at Vector Arena. Tom Abercrombie said after the Wollongong defeat they had found it hard to remain energised with nothing more than a regular season win on the line.

"There's certainly a better focus this week," Lemanis said. "We have had our challenges and ups and downs with the injuries but there's certainly a bit of resolve in the group.

"We short-circuited a lot last weekend and, as a result, our offence didn't produce the shots we needed it to produce for us. We got a little anxious and frustrated and I think that is also a function of the way we approached the game. We didn't have the sharpness you need to come out and play well and for whatever reason we just couldn't find it in the game and got more frustrated."

The Breakers might have been off-colour at times this season but they still go into the weekend as league leaders with a 5-2 record, which is better than Cairns who go into tonight's visit to Sydney having won just two of their six games.

- APNZ

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