Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Basketball: If I'm happy and I know it, I'm gonna show it - Wilkinson

Gary Wilkinson. Photo / Getty Images
Gary Wilkinson. Photo / Getty Images

Gary Wilkinson is hard to miss when he is celebrating and maybe that's why he gets under the skin of the Perth Wildcats so easily.

He is over two metres tall, ginger and American. He is also unrepentant and hopes to be celebrating a whole lot more at Perth's Challenge Stadium after the second game of the NBL finals series tomorrow night.

A win will seal a consecutive title for the Breakers and the big forward, who missed training on Tuesday due to a 24-hour illness, definitely has the stomach for this fight.

"I don't care," was his response to the almost inevitable complaining from Wildcats coach Rob Beveridge about the appropriateness of Wilkinson's celebrations following last week's game one win in Auckland.

"We win, we celebrate, I couldn't care less. I think sometimes they're looking for things to motivate them and get people behind them. I mean, we've won there once already [this season]. It's just a matter of letting them find little things to get upset about.

We'll just go there and get a win and then I'll celebrate some more."

Every team needs a player the opposition loves to hate, and Wilkinson is comfortable with the role.

"I'm a passionate player. I look at it this way - if I'm on your team you love me. If I'm not on your team you hate me. I bring a lot of passion and energy to the way I play ... I'm an upstanding guy and I try to treat people with respect but as a basketball player I celebrate, I enjoy myself, I enjoy my profession. If people don't like it I can't help that."

Wilkinson's day at home recovering from a stomach bug which also flattened forward Dillon Boucher was a disruption to the Breakers, who had to call in two extras to help make up numbers.

It had its upside for the irrepressible 29-year-old though, as he got to see his son Jordan take his first steps.

Both he and Boucher trained fully yesterday, with the other player under a question mark, Tom Abercrombie, practising only free throws due to his injured ankle. Abercrombie is expected to play tomorrow night, unlike in game one when he sat on the sideline.

It is accepted within the Breakers that Beveridge's constant baiting is merely psychological warfare, but Wilkinson and Boucher indulged in a few of their own mind games when saying the Wildcats' hostile home support could backfire.

"If you keep the crowd quiet by going on a run, that gives you momentum," said Wilkinson. "It takes away from the home team as well."

Boucher, who said: "We're expecting the worst crowd we've ever come across", added: "As daunting as it is for us, their crowd could play a big part [against] themselves as well. If they feel themselves getting down in the game their crowd is going to go really quiet and that can sap all the energy from another team so they've got to be in the lead in this game to make sure the crowd's in it."

A defeat for the Breakers will bring the series to a decider in Auckland next Tuesday night. A victory and the traditional cutting down of the rim nets will be extra special.

"It will make it sweet," said Wilkinson.

"You're out there celebrating as a team, you've worked together all year and now it's just yours to enjoy as a team and take it all in."

- APNZ

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