Basketball: Breakers sign replacement for injured Ili

Shea Ili of the Breakers brings the ball up during a match against the Adelaide 36ers. Photo / Getty Images
Shea Ili of the Breakers brings the ball up during a match against the Adelaide 36ers. Photo / Getty Images

The Breakers have wasted no time bringing in a short term replacement for injured guard Shea Ili, with Australian Isaih Tueta (Izzy) jetting in yesterday in time to join the team for their pre-season tour to Tauranga, Napier and Invercargill this week.

The 24 year old has been playing his ball with Brisbane Spartans in the SEABL competition for the past two seasons and was recommended to the Breakers by Spartans player/coach and Breakers legend CJ Bruton as the ideal replacement for Ili while he sits out the first part of the season with a stress fracture to his back.

Head Coach Paul Henare is pleased at the speed with which they have got their man and the quality of the player.

"Izzy is a player that we were made aware of during the off-season but we just did not have room in our guard line so to be in a position now to offer him the chance to show his value at NBL level is great for us and obviously a great opportunity for him.

"We put the feelers out after Shea's injury and he was one of the names that popped up and then with the links to CJ that helped us get more background. I watched three of his games from the SEABL and was happy with what I saw. His main responsibility is to come in and replace what Shea gives us, that is what we will be looking for him to do.

"If he is able to walk away from this experience and have it lead into something, either with us or another NBL team it is awesome we can play a part in that, in developing a player and giving them such an opportunity. That will be part of his motivation as well, to make the most of this chance, the spin off from that is going to be good for us while he is here."

Henare picked Tueta up from the airport on Sunday and in the short time he has spent with him, has been impressed with what he has seen.

"He is laid back, from the Sunshine Coast - where I imagine there are not too many uptight people anyway! He is fitting in really well, he will be thrown in the deep end this week but speaking to him yesterday he is ready. One of the advantages in his season finishing just a week ago is that he is game ready and good to go from a fitness perspective."

Tueta was buzzing as he prepared for the drive to Tauranga today where he will likely be thrown into the rotation immediately in the three games against the Bullets, starting Tuesday night at ASB Arena.

"I have been chasing this my whole life, I guess the last couple of years my focus has started to shifted to other things, I have just got engaged and I have been working more in my 'day job' in the childcare industry and love that.

"This chance could be huge though, I have maybe nine weeks and up to nine games to do the best I can and play as hard as I can with any court time I get to prove myself at this level. Who knows then, with other injuries this year or next in the league and I might get a shot.

"This is a great opportunity though, it is hard to get your foot in the door with just eight teams, that has been the case for me for the past four or five years and I understand that, so when you do get the foot in the door you have to take advantage of it. For me right now I am just trying to do the best I can for me and my fiancée and look at the opportunities that come up."

Tueta travelled with the team to Tauranga today and will be part of the rotation for the three games against the Brisbane Bullets in Tauranga on Tuesday night, in Napier on Thursday night and in Invercargill on Saturday.

The duration of his stay will very much depend on the return to fitness of Ili, the Tall Black point guard faces another five weeks of rest before he is then able to ease his way back into his rehab and consider a return to the playing court.

- NZ Herald

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