The Breakers have further strengthened their roster for the 2016/17 season with the signing today of young New Zealander players Finn Delany and Shea Ili, taking the total number of players signed for the new campaign to seven.
20-year-old Delany and 23-year-old Ili were both at the club last season as development players and are well known to the club and to head coach Paul Henare.
"I am delighted to have secured the signatures of these two young men," said Henare. "Both are on the cusp of lengthy and successful careers in the game and have the world at their feet. They have worked incredibly hard to earn what has come their way, but both know that this is a start, the hard work begins now if they are to fulfil their potential but knowing the attitude and focus of both, I have no doubt that they can thrive in the Breakers environment."
Delany is a promising forward, perhaps more attuned to playing in the four spot but keen to work on transitioning to a more versatile three who can offer Henare support in a variety of roles on the team while Ili is very much an out and out point guard.
Delany was understandably thrilled at receiving the call from Henare with news of a two year deal.
"It feels great, I am honoured that the Breakers want me for two years, to be able to have that chance to grow under Pauli, Judd and Fitch again next year is great. This is something I wanted to achieve, going through the club's development programme you get a close up look at where your career can go, and signing as a fulltime roster player is where you want it to go for sure."
Ili too is jumping out of his skin to continue his career at the club and to move into the fulltime roster and all that entails.
"It is exciting to get this opportunity to be a rostered player for the next three years. My goal is simply to carry on and work hard every single day. I have dreamed of this for some time and I am so honoured to have the chance with the Breakers to further my career."
Henare has no doubt both players are ready to take the step up, as was witnessed last season with Ili earning minutes on a regular basis towards the end of the season, including during the play-offs.
"Shea is one of the fittest players ever to come through the club, based on testing he is our number one overall best athlete - which gives him some amazing tools to do special things on the court. Where he has really progressed is learning the game and becoming a better point guard, a better leader, more vocal. That progression puts him in the situation he is in now on a fulltime contract.
"Finn is another whose work ethic and attitude is where he excels. His versatility with his genuine size, being a strong and powerful athlete enabling him to play power forward but also to guard multiple positions as a 4 and 3, gives him an advantage over other guys. His vision and goals to become more a perimeter player fits in with where we see him in our roster, complementing what we have already, giving coverage in both positions."
Ili says that experience late in the season will serve him well going into the new campaign as a fulltime rostered player.
"Every single day is a stepping stone to get better and last year was a taste of what it could be, getting time on the floor late in the season was big for my confidence. Being thrown in the deep end was tough, highlighting at times that my experience may not have been there but the chance to learn and get better was amazing."
Like Ili, Nelson raised Delany is under no illusions as to how hard he has to work before and during next season if he is to lay the foundations for a successful career in the sport.
"This is exciting news but it is just another step for me, this has been a goal but it is not nearly the end result, it is just a step up the ladder. My aim now is to continue working hard, to continue to do all I can to be better every day. It is a goal achieved but it is not the end result, I must keep working and keep developing."
Ili was raised in Mangere Bridge, playing his basketball at Onehunga High School and appearing for Counties Manukau in rep teams before appearing in the New Zealand NBL with the Pirates at age 19 and has since played for the Rangers, Sharks and this season the Wellington Saints.
"Being a Breaker has helped me so much in my role at the Saints, I am more of a leader to our team now, I am still learning at the same time, working with KB (Kevin Braswell) and working on my offensive game and trying to get that going and then going back to Auckland to work with Pauli on my defence, this allows me to better at both aspects of my game.
Delany is of a similar view as he also is posting great numbers in the New Zealand NBL with the Nelson Giants, crediting his time as a Breakers development player last season as helping his confidence especially.
"Being able to see firsthand the level of professionalism in the Breakers, the attitude and mentality to work hard every day, to get better bit by bit. The attitude of coming in and everyone on the team on and off court pushing each other to a common goal, that is what makes everyone a better player. This has helped me in the New Zealand league, I have tried to carry as much confidence as I can - this is one of the major things, playing with a higher level of awareness of the game and confidence in my ability which has really helped."
Henare is equally proud of the continued pathway provided by the club, with Delany and Ili both testament to the opportunities afforded to young New Zealand men.
"I have been part of this club for many years now and the one thing that I am perhaps most proud of is the drive to produce quality young New Zealand players - as people as well as basketballers. Both Finn and Shea have been development players and Shea spent a year in our Academy (2011) working with Judd and other coaches. This pathway is something we are incredibly proud of at the club and something that must continue to foster our best young talent in the years ahead."