When basketball import Jamie Skeen boarded his flight in Charlotte he was prepared to miss out on celebrating his birthday on May 2 simply because of the time difference between the United States and New Zealand.

Well, actually, missing the Jets wasn't on a keen Skeen's agenda either, for that matter.

As it turned out, he had missed his connecting flight from Houston, arriving at Auckland airport after the 20-hour-plus haul only to find his baggage had gone astray before making his debut for the Taylor Corporation Hawks.

Hawke's Bay franchise general manager Kevin Wagg said the 30-year-old power forward had departed on a plane from the most populous city in North Carolina on a two-hour journey to Houston but his baggage was not transferred to his connecting flight, NZ29.


"So he arrived in Auckland with no bags. He was hanging around the old, bloody carousel and no bags turned up.

"The trouble was he had his basketball boots in there."

You see, Skeen had arrived in time for the Ballroom Arena Manawatu showdown but did he have the appropriate footwear to make the right moves he has become renowned for?

They weren't just any boots but a pair of mammoth size 16s.

"They aren't available anywhere in New Zealand and they were in his luggage," explained Wagg soon after arriving in Palmerston North for the 7pm tip off against Go Media Jets in the round two Sal's National Basketball League match last night.

"He had his priorities right. He had his X-Box but not his important footwear," he said with a laugh, after the 2.03m player joined the Zico Coronel-coached Hawks as their third overseas signing and got precious 12:20 minutes on court.

The others are Australian bigs Angus Brandt (2.08m centre) and Oscar Forman (2.06m power forward).

However, Air New Zealand averted disaster when it came to the rescue of Skeen who had arrived in Napier at 9.30am on Wednesday.


The national carrier got his bag to Palmerston North airport where the Hawks team bus, with Skeen, collected his luggage about midday.

Hawks' American import Jamie Skeen landed a three-pointer in his first touch of the ball against the Jets in Palmerston North last night. Photo/Photosport
Hawks' American import Jamie Skeen landed a three-pointer in his first touch of the ball against the Jets in Palmerston North last night. Photo/Photosport

Surely former US import Kareem Johnson, who became a naturalised Kiwi late last month, must be flirting with size 16 feet?

"No, Kareem's only size 15," said an exhausted Wagg who had spent more than two hours phoning just about every major sports retail outlet in the country to buy a size 16 pair before Air NZ's gesture.

"You can buy 14 and 15 but you can't buy size 16s anywhere in New Zealand," he said. "Jamie was saying he can't even find size 16s in America."

Skeen, he said, couldn't rock up to a shop to buy a pair but had to order them in advance.

The nervous player also had to go shopping for some clothes on Wednesday.

"I took him to the Warehouse to buy some gruts. He thought we were going out to get some food and didn't realise it was underwear," said Wagg, revealing Skeen had sent a text to his girlfriend in North Carolina shortly before of the excitement of tasting some Kiwi tucker.

For the record, Skeen had celebrated his birthday with family and friends on March 30 and the Hawks whanau welcomed him to the Bay with a celebratory dinner.