The rising stars of New Zealand basketball will come into the orbit of the Northland Suns this Saturday and organisers are hoping for a big turnout to witness the rare occasion.
The young New Zealand Breakers Basketball Academy team will head north from Auckland to take on the Milestone Homes Northland Suns in an extremely rare home game to kick off the 2012 Senior Intercity Competition.
The competition is the closest New Zealand has to a second division but it is Auckland-based and the Suns have to travel every weekend to play - unless they can convince some more of the seven Auckland teams that it's in their interest to travel to Whangarei for a game.
Suns trustee Edwin Popham said a big, raucous crowd on Saturday may help them achieve that - and motivate the side against one of the most talented teams in the competition.
"We've got a big basketball community up here in the north and we've got to get them along to the game, if it's a big success then we should be able to use that as a lever to attract other games," Popham said.
His challenge is to negotiate with the Auckland clubs to try and get them to play one of their two scheduled games in the north. It is not an easy task, with many of them unwilling to travel.
"The attraction for the Breakers is that they will get their players used to travelling to games and hopefully face a big, hostile crowd ... that's good for the growth of young players and we hope that we can sell that to the other clubs with young players too," he said.
The Breakers players are the cream of the young talent in New Zealand that can be contracted by the franchise, with many of them going on to play for the Breakers in the Australasian National Basketball League.
The game day activities start at 1pm at ASB Stadium, Kensington, with the Parafed Northland Wheelchair Basketball team appearing in a curtain-raiser.
"We are very fortunate to be part of this high quality league, and having the Breakers Academy visit Northland will help us continue to raise the profile of basketball here," Popham said.
Certainly the price is right to attract a big crowd. The game is free for 12s, and for anyone else a gold coin is the entry price.
The Suns have players from all around the region, including Kaitaia, Dargaville, Portland and Whangarei. They are coached by Mangakahia Area School teacher Stanko Susjar and assistant coach Aaron Sadler, and managed by Carol Clunie.