American import Akil Mitchell is enjoying his time on the floor with the SKYCITY Breakers and cant wait to suit up again at the Australian Basketball Challenge in Brisbane this weekend - just dont ask him to go on a nature walk or go for a swim at a beach.
Having overcome one phobia when he completed the SKYJUMP at SKYCITY at the season launch a fortnight ago, the likeable 24 year old power forward admits that there are some Australian locals he is not looking forward to meeting.
"I am looking forward to my first trip to Australia for sure, first and foremost to get some more games with the team and to continue to work on improving towards that season opener at Vector Arena on October 7.
"But while Im sure I will enjoy Australia and the people, I just dont want to run into spiders or snakes or anything like that. I am not getting in the water or messing with any animals - that is something I am definitely not going to do. I hear that they have all sorts of creatures that might not like me, so I will be sticking to basketball for sure while we are over here!"
In all seriousness Mitchell says he and the team have plenty that they will look to take out of the visit, which includes games against Sydney, Cairns and Adelaide over the next four days.
"It will be great to work on getting to know a couple of the other teams, the league generally, the referees and how they interpret the games and the general style of play. For me personally thought my game is coming on well and it is fun to get out there and play again."
Mitchell says the series against Brisbane offered plenty to the group, with results the furthest from their minds.
"It is not fun losing but it was fun to get out there with the guys and get a sense of who we are, what we want to be and what we can do. It was just fun to play in what was just our second week together. I think it was good for us to have that time together on the road and from the losses we saw some things we need to improve on and tighten up. You can actually lose focus from winning, in a way it was good for us, now we just need to get healthy and on track for October 7 against Melbourne and our first game in front of a big Vector Arena crowd, I cant wait to see everyone there."
Head Coach Paul Henare says the ABC is as much about ensuring he has a healthy roster for that season opener as it is about scouting other teams and continuing to work on improvements within his own roster.
"Kirk has a minor calf strain and we will see how he goes, we dont expect him to play much if at all this weekend but he should be fine for October 7 at Vector Arena. Corey is similar to Kirk, he has seen a specialist to see what is happening with his back and hip, so again we will manage him over the weekend. Tom has come through pretty well with his minor back strain and with Woody he is dealing with a heel issue but he has rested for a couple of days but he should be fine to go, we will see how he goes at training.
"The injuries and disruption is a setback in terms of on court chemistry and working through rotations in the pre-season, but the most important thing is to get everyone as healthy as we can before October 7 and that is our focus now. Tommy will be fine, that is just a minor one and with Corey and Kirk we are still two weeks away so it is plenty of time to come right."
Henare says that while others might focus on the injuries, there were plenty of positives to come from the Brisbane series, positives that auger well for the season proper.
"It is good to see that if we have any problems with injury this season that our guys can step up, I was really pleased to see both Derone and Ethan and others step up and play their natural game and it gives us the comfort as coaches to know that we have the confidence in those players to get out there and compete if they are needed."
Henare says the focus in Brisbane these next few days is on improving every day in order to be ready for Melbourne on October 7.
"We are looking for continued improvement from those areas from last week, but playing against Brisbane over and over again you see the same defence and you get tied into a style so we will get to see a lot more zone with the likes of Sydney, we will seeing different press breaks with Cairns and Adelaide so for us it is a chance to adapt on the fly and a good chance to work on different aspects that we didnt work on against Brisbane.
"And scouting is a huge part of this, we will all be busy. Coaches will stay after games and watch and observe so we will be basketball hermits for four or five days for sure."
Australian Basketball Challenge (ABC)
Please note there is live streaming of these games, visit www.nbl.com.au for details
Friday 23rd September
V Sydney Kings, 7pm NZT
- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand