Mike Pero Nelson Giants captain Sam Dempster hopes his team can deliver a belated birthday present when they take on the Manawatu Jets in the first of three National Basketball League competition games in Whanganui on Wednesday night.
Dempster, who turned 28 yesterday, said the Giants are likely to be without Australian import point guard Kyle Adnam who has been in Dallas at a Mavericks NBA camp, but the roster will be balanced by the return from injury of 2.03m (6' 8") US forward Jerry Evans Jr.
The Giants are second on the Sal's NBL ladder, while Go Media Jets are second from bottom, although each time they have met lately they have been close contests.
Nelson's strength is obvious with three players in the Tall Blacks squad; Mika Vukona, Tohi Smith Milner and Finn Delany.
"It's going to be quite exciting, I've been in the NBL for 11 seasons now and I've never played in Whanganui," Dempster said.
"I haven't actually been involved in HoopNation, but a couple of our guys have. It should be a tough game. I think the Jets are much better than the ladder suggests.
"A win would be a nice birthday present, but whatever happens it will be a great spectacle for the fans, I'm sure."
Manawatu will lose 2.14m (7') centre Callum McRae after this game with a US college scholarship on the table, but have two very dominant US players in Kuran Iverson and Daishon Knight.
Two of the best coaches in the league are in charge tonight with Jamie Pearlman from Aussie guiding the Giants while Tim McTamney has done a solid job with the Jets.
A few of the Giants will be familiar with Springvale Stadium having been to HoopNation when it was based in Whanganui before moving to Tauranga.
The Jets will face the Canterbury Rams on Saturday, June 30, followed by the 2017 champions, league leaders Wellington Saints on Saturday, July 7. Each game will be held at Springvale Stadium in Whanganui at 7pm.
The Jets are excited about holding these games in Whanganui and hope they can make it an annual event on the Whanganui sporting calendar. Having a team playing at NBL level in Whanganui is a great opportunity for young players to watch and the Jets and will ignite the passion and motivation for them to progress in their own game.
This season the Jets have a strong community focus, their priority is to develop young players in the team to give them the opportunity to play at NBL level.
"Our aim is to rebuild the Jets as part of a long-term project," Jets operations manager Jen Young said.
The Jets are encouraging fans to get behind them and support the up-and-coming talent. Tickets are on sale from Sport Whanganui or the I-Site information centre.
Kids tickets are $5 and adults are $10, alternatively, adults can purchase tickets for all three games for $25. On the night there will be the opportunity to buy tickets at the door.