The Taylor Hawks' hopes of going one step further than 2021 and winning the National Basketball League have been given another boost with one of the Hawke's Bay team's more unusual signings for the new season starting in April.
Quintin Bailey is a 24-year-old Taranaki dairy farmer and a former high school First XV rugby player, who gave up Taranaki representative hopes with the oval ball for a career with the round ball.
To put the decision into perspective, he also happens to be just over two metres tall (6ft 7in to be precise), has Sal's NBL history with the Taranaki Mountain Airs and Canterbury Rams, and also, as a teenager, stints in the US with Californian junior college Citrus and as a senior with John Brown University Golden Eagles.
He also has history with the new Hawks coach and general manager, Mick Downer, at the Rams, who adds Tall Blacks aspirant Bailey as the first new signing.
Downer had previously announced the retention of Ethan Rusbatch, Jordan Hunt and Derone Raukawa, key players last year when the Hawks were beaten by just two points by Wellington Saints in the NBL final and knew other franchises were seeking Bailey's signature.
Known as "Q" for short, and the Rams' highest scorer in last year's Hawks home-match season opener at the Pettigrew.Green Arena in Taradale, Bailey and Hunt are expected to form a formidable frontcourt as two of the more talented tall men in the league.
"I felt the Hawks provided a great environment for me to further grow as a player, both on and off the court, ultimately, helping me to get one step closer to my potential," Bailey said. "I can't wait to get started."
Born and raised in Taranaki, Bailey had two years as a lock, flanker and No 8 in the Stratford High School First XV at rugby, and was named in a Taranaki Under 18 squad.
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But having been in the school's basketball team that was runner-up in a New Zealand secondary schools national championship in 2015, he joined the Taranaki Mountain Airs squad the following season.
Returning to New Zealand after three years in the US, Bailey was recruited by Downer when he was head coach at the Rams in Christchurch – a city Bailey, perhaps showing some trace of the country boy still within, had never been near before.
Speaking from the family farm – third generation working on the property at Cardiff, west of Stratford and backing onto Mt Taranaki – he conceded he hadn't come across too many dairy farmers on the basketball courts.
"I think I'd be the only one," he said, recalling how he did have some chance to get away from the city in Canterbury last season and get among the cows on a relative's dairy farm near Ashburton.
Saying he flourished under the mentorship of Downer last year, leading to being named in the Tall Blacks' wider training squad, his arrival in Hawke's Bay is all about the game, at a make-or-break age with World Championships and Olympic Games qualifying matches on the radar.
"It is time to concentrate 100 per cent on basketball," he said. "I had never made a national squad before," he said.
He had spent time in Hawke's Bay visiting in his younger days and has good memories of one night in May last year and his Rams high score of 21 points – even if it was in a 104-90 win to the Hawks, a sign of big things to come.