Basketball: Veterans still performing in NBL

By Niall Anderson

Phill Jones goes to the rim against the Southland Sharks. Photo / Photosport
Phill Jones goes to the rim against the Southland Sharks. Photo / Photosport

The New Zealand sporting landscape doesn't often cater to veterans, but the National Basketball League does things a bit differently.

This year's competition is laden with veterans - players who have had their moment in the sun with the Tall Blacks or New Zealand Breakers, yet are still lacing up their sneakers at the national league level.

With round two of the NBL in the books, it is time to chronicle the NBL veterans.

Phill Jones

Jones' run continues to be staggering. The 42-year-old was the NBL Rookie Of The Year in 1993, and is still going strong 23 years later, playing alongside teammates who weren't born when he debuted.

Nearing in on 400 NBL games, Jones played his last ANBL game five years ago, and retired from the Tall Blacks in 2008.

In fact, Jones is older than four of the seven coaches in the NBL, and a month younger than a fifth, Judd Flavell.

Yet, he is still performing at a high level for the Nelson Giants - bringing up 7000 NBL points over the weekend as Nelson picked up two consecutive wins.

Jones scored 17 points in 18 minutes in a 102-98 win over the Supercity Rangers, before backing it up 18 hours later with an 18 point performance as the Giants beat the Hawke's Bay Hawks 91-80 to move to 3-1 on the season.

Dillon Boucher

While Jones' situation is unique, it has nothing on Dillon Boucher's position.

The New Zealand Breakers new general manager is in a potentially unprecedented situation of playing against people he will not only be in charge of, but actively recruiting to join the Breakers.

It's probably no coincidence that Breakers Development players Jordan Ngatai and Finn Delany have both had huge games against Boucher's Supercity Rangers outfit, with players looking to bring their best against the wily 40-year-old forward.

With Mika Vukona unavailable, Boucher has probably had to play more minutes than expected as the Rangers slump to a 0-3 start.

The entire Hawks roster

The Hawks are low on cash, but high on experience. Possibly the oldest team in NBL history, the Hawks' two American import forwards are 37 and 35 years old respectively, while starting point guard Aidan Daly is also 37.

Add in Arthur Trousdell (34), Matt Te Huna (32), Darryl Jones (31) and the soon-to-be playing Paora Winitana (39) and the Hawks have a multitude of past-their-prime players, culminating in a starting lineup against the Giants with an average age of 33.

The young talent they do have - such as 19-year-old guard Mataeus Marsh - must be getting veteran experience every second of the day, and at some stage the 0-2 Hawks should consider utilising the season to further blood their inexperienced local talent.

NBL Ladder

1. Wellington Saints 2-0
2. Nelson Giants 3-1
3. Taranaki Mountain Airs 2-1
4. Canterbury Rams 1-1
5. Southland Sharks 1-1
6. Hawke's Bay Hawks 0-2
7. Supercity Rangers 0-3

- NZ Herald

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