An emotionally charged TSB Stadium awaits in New Plymouth tonight as the Taranaki Steelformers Mountainairs play their first home game since 2019. Adding poignancy to the occasion is the recent passing of legendary Tall Blacks coach and Taranaki basketball figure Steve McKean. There is cause for celebration also however, as Aaron Bailey-Nowell will play game number 300.
Of course, the Franklin Bulls won’t be there to celebrate Aunty’s 300th… they’ll be there looking to improve to 2-1 after two nail biters to start the season.
Team News – Airs
After last weekends Southern Swing produced two vastly different looking losses – one on the buzzer to the Sharks, before a heavy defeat to the Nuggets – the Airs will look slightly different in round 2. Nelson Kirksey has been listed as unavailable and the scuttlebutt is that his days at the Airs are numbered having never gelled with the coach or team.
Aaron Bailey-Nowell is back, which is huge, but after a badly rolled ankle just a week ago just how much he plays is anyone’s guess. He’ll want to play all 40, but coach Trent Adam may have different, and more sensible, ideas.
Baxter Fenwick may head to the bench if they start Aunty, expect to see Francis Mulvihill, Haize Walker, Marcel Jones, and Tai Wynyard out there at tip-off.
Team News – Bulls
Zane Waterman is a huge hit among Bulls fans after his debut last week, he’ll start alongside Denhym Brooke in the front court. Josh Selby, Nick Fee, and Dane Brooks will make up the rest of the Bulls starting five.
Matt Freeman is out of quarantine, but only as of 8:30pm last night, so we’ll have to wait a little bit longer before we see him make his debut.
What The Coaches Are Saying
Trent Adam (Airs) – The whole organisation is excited to have Sal's NBL action back in Taranaki, in what is sure to be an emotionally charged night. Aaron celebrating his 300th game is going to bring the fans out in huge numbers to honour the work he has done over the years. This, mixed with the emotions of the basketball community losing a great man this week in Steve “ Coach” McKean, will see a great celebration of basketball identities in Taranaki. The Bulls have had a positive start to the season with Jamie and his staff putting together an exciting, up-tempo roster. We look forward to the opportunity to test ourselves against them and measure our growth from last week.
Jamie Reddish (Bulls) – We are looking forward to the challenge of being on the road for the first time. The Airs will be very keen to get a win at their home opening for 2021 so we will need to lock in defensively. We know Marcel can be a handful when he gets going and they have some young, athletic players around him. Our sincere condolences go out to Rachel and the McKean family. Coach McKean impacted people all over NZ especially in the Taranaki region. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
How to watch
When: Thursday May 6
Where: TSB Stadium, New Plymouth
Watch: Sky Sport 2 – Huw Beynon and Casey Frank
Tickets: click HERE FOR TICKETS