Basketball: Recruitment process begins to get Breakers back on top

By Kris Shannon

New management has only three spots filled for next year after title defeat.
Mika Vukona will be returning to the Breakers for another campaign. Photo/Getty
Mika Vukona will be returning to the Breakers for another campaign. Photo/Getty

They already have a new coach and new general manager - now the process begins for the Breakers to build a new roster capable of continuing the club's success.

The four-time champions are entering a period of uncertainty after Sunday night's disastrous grand final decider against Perth, with only three players currently contracted for next season.

Mika Vukona, Tom Abercrombie and Corey Webster will be returning to the club for another campaign, while decisions around the rest of the roster are now in the hands of Paul Henare and Dillon Boucher.

The former teammates had their promotions announced earlier in the season, succeeding exiting coach Dean Vickerman and long-standing general manager Richard Clarke, and will oversee the Breakers' first major transition in three years.

That was a season in which Vickerman struggled to craft a team in his own identity after taking the reins from three-time title-winner Andrej Lemanis, watching the defending champions slump to second-last.

Vickerman, of course, quickly revived the club's fortunes and led them to two grand finals in three years, but Henare was facing even more complications than his former boss.

With Boucher taking control of the recruitment of players and with the potential for altered rules surrounding the make-up of teams' rosters, there are many variables factoring into the equation facing Henare, who will also be juggling Tall Blacks commitments.

But Vickerman was confident his former charge would be more then capable of assembling another title-contender.

"It's an important time of year for him now, to go and put together the team he wants to put together," Vickerman said after arriving back from Perth. "It's really up to him how he wants to recruit.

"He'll carry on with our scout in the United States and I think the rest of the coaching staff he's putting together will assist him while he's doing national team duties. I think they'll be fine - they'll have the world pretty well covered and they'll find the right people."

That is especially imperative given both import spots are available - and that number may well swell to three if the league implements a proposed increase.

But Cedric Jackson, whose season abroad coincided with the slump in Vickerman's maiden campaign, was one player hopeful of returning to ensure a smooth passage between coaches.

"Hopefully things will work out," Jackson said. "[Coming back] is always one of the No 1 priorities, because I'm so comfortable here. So if there's a chance then I definitely want to come back."

Abercrombie, too, was hopeful the majority of his teammates would be back for another title tilt, though he knew the realities of sport rendered that possibility unlikely.

"It'll be nice if we can keep the core of the group together, but it's always tough in professional sport," he said.

"It's inevitable there's going to be some change but I'm sure Pauli and Dillon will do a good job of sitting down and putting together the best team they can for next year."

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