Basketball: Breakers add second import

Akil Mitchell, right, has joined the Breakers as their second import for the 2016/17 ANBL season. Photo / Gettys
Akil Mitchell, right, has joined the Breakers as their second import for the 2016/17 ANBL season. Photo / Gettys

One of the first things that struck Akil Mitchell when walking into the boardroom at Breakers HQ for the first time today was the trophy cabinet pointing to past successes.

Of course, there's the four full-size replica trophies they won in five seasons between 2011 and 2015, as well as a collection of large photos from celebrated moments. Last season they came close to adding another title but were well beaten by the Perth Wildcats in game three of the grand final series.

It's hoped Mitchell is an important ingredient in another successful campaign and, while imports don't always measure up to expectations, there's a fair degree of confidence within the Breakers they have a player who can make a difference.

"His basketball skill-set is perfect in terms of what we were looking for," coach Paul Henare said.

"He's someone we have had our eye on in the past and weren't sure we were ever going to get him down here."

Mitchell is a 206cm-tall power forward who had a successful college career at Virginia, working with head coach and former North Harbour player and coach Tony Bennett and helping them to regular season and ACC tournament championships in 2014.

Undrafted in 2014, Mitchell has since spent time with the Houston Rockets (NBA summer league), Rio Grande Valley Vipers (NBA development league), the Brooklyn Nets (2015 NBA summer league) before heading to France with Olympique Antibes for the 2015/16 season.

He will join point guard Ben Woodside as the Breakers' two imports alongside a squad otherwise entirely made up of Kiwis. It looks a strong squad, headlined by the likes of Mika Vukona, Kirk Penney, Thomas Abercrombie and Corey Webster, but the same can be said of most teams as the ANBL looks to grow up.

Fans will get a better gauge when the Breakers open their season against a Melbourne United side containing former Breakers Cedric Jackson and Tai Wesley on October 7 at Vector Arena.

What Mitchell is promising to bring is a defensive presence.

"I'm a defence first kind of guy," he said just hours after landing in Auckland. "Defensive versatility is kind of what I do. I have always been able to play multiple positions from high school to college. Scoring is secondary to me. Scoring is something that will come."

In 49 games for the Vipers, he averaged 9.8 points, 9 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1 steal per game. Henare is looking to use him as predominantly a power forward but could also opt to shift him to centre when both Alex Pledger and Rob Loe are off court in a smaller, more athletic lineup.

Mitchell is open about his desire to crack the NBA and says he will return to the NBA development league at the end of the ANBL season.

"I'm 24; not old but not young, either. I think this is a good stepping stone to continue my development but it's also time to win. It's time to mark myself as a winner, which is what I have always wanted to be. This is good for not only me but also the Breakers."

There's still room in the boardroom to add another trophy to the collection.

Breakers 2016/17 Roster
Ben Woodside, USA, point guard, 1.80m (5ft 11in) 84kg
Shea Ili, point guard, NZL, 1.82m (6ft) 85kg
Corey Webster, guard, NZL, 1.87m (6ft 2in) 86kg
Kirk Penney, guard, NZL, 1.95m (6ft 5in) 99kg
Tom Abercrombie, NZL, swingman, 1.98m (6ft 6in) 94 kg
Jordan Ngatai, NZL, swingman, 1.95m (6ft 5in) 105kg
Mika Vukona, NZL, forward, 1.98m (6ft 6in) 105kg
Finn Delany, NZL, forward, 2.0m (6ft 7in) 102 kg
Rob Loe, NZL, forward, 2.10m (6ft 11in) 111kg
Akil Mitchell USA, forward, 2.06m (6ft 9in)
Alex Pledger, NZL, centre, 2.13 m (7ft) 111kg

- NZ Herald

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