The Taranaki Steelformers Mountainairs are a team with great optimism for the coming Sal’s NBL season. The Airs finished seventh last year but will look to improve on their efforts and garner some consistency in their play.
Protecting the peak, in particular, will be a priority for the Airs, something they managed to only do once last year. Head Coach David Bublitz says his team is preparing well for the opening game in Nelson.
“All of our local boys have been training for a while now and set a good foundation for what I believe is a year of great potential for us.
“Most of our imports will be rolling in over the next couple of weeks, so we’re in a good space and I’m confident that when they arrive they will fit in seamlessly.
The Airs will need to improve on the defensive end if they hope to make the playoffs and will also be without their leading scorer and rebounder from last year, Javonte Douglas, who is now plying his trade in the Czech Republic. However, they have retained the services of last year’s team MVP, Alonzo Burton, and possibly pair him in the backcourt with Tall Black recruit Derone Raukawa.
Raukawa is a talented combo guard who has made the move north in search of a starting role and will bring championship experience from his time with defending title holders the SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks. Pairing him with Burton could give the Airs an extra gear on offence and the versatility to play in the half court or in transition.
Two new imports are also set to make an impact for the boys in yellow and provide depth in the frontcourt. Kevin Foster is a 6’8” forward who spent time in the G League with the Lakeside Magic, Stockton Kings and Iowa Wolves. Christopher Early is similarly sized forward who arrives in New Zealand after several seasons in the Canadian NBL with the Saint John Riptide.
A few old faces will presumably take to the hardwood this year, with the return of former import Daniel Gomis and local legend Aaron Bailey-Nowell. The Airs have also recruited younger talents in Latrell Teka, Oscar Robertson and Thane O’Leary.
The Airs open their Sal’s NBL season against the Mike Pero Nelson Giants on Saturday April 13, where they will look to steal one away from home.