The Sal's NBL and Mike Pero Nelson Giants are jointly celebrating their 40th anniversary this year and for the Giants that could come with a genuine shot at making the Final 4. This largely homegrown team has had the smallest turnover of players since the 2019 season, they've added two young and athletic imports, a few quality youngsters from further north, and they have one of the best coaches in the caper.
It's a tantalizing recipe for success and makes them a team to watch!
Let's take a closer look at the Giants.
Coach: Mike Fitchett
0. Tysxun Aiolupotea
1. Anzac Rissetto
2. Donte Ingram*
3. Alex McNaught
5. Hunter Hale*
7. Riley Bensemann
8. Nic Trathen
9. Tom Ingham (pictured)
10. Sam Dempster
15. Josh Leger
25. Jay Marsh
26. Bronson Beri
29. Tyler Marsh
33. Tom Gargiulo
Donte Ingram has experienced something few others have – namely a gig at the NCAA Final 4 and playing in front of 80,000 fans! The Loyola Ramblers star will always cherish the run his team made in 2018, all the way to San Antonio to cap March Madness. Though Villanova won that year doesn’t matter, Ingram walked away a collegiate star and now he has the chance to show his wares internationally (after a couple of years in the NBA G League) with the Giants, where he is set to instantly be a hit with the fans. Ingram will be well worth the price of admission and is exactly what the Giants need to contend for New Zealand’s version of the Final 4. It's also worth noting the Giants' other import, Hunter Hale, also has plenty of start quality of his own - if his game backs up his 240,000 followers on TikTok the Giants have an import duo that will be a lot of fun to watch!
In many ways Tom Ingham had a breakout year in 2020, relishing the chance to take on a bigger profile at the Showdown, and then again at the 3X3 Schick Cup. Super athletic and capable of the mercurial, Ingham is one of the very best x-factor guys in the competition. Those who sleep on this local star do so at their own peril. Look for Ingham to have a huge season.
When we talk about veterans across the Sal’s NBL there is no better example than Sammy Dempster. The Giants skipper is a true leader and highly respected for not only his play, but also his ability to lift those around him and get the best out of them. After missing the 2020 season due to work, Dempster will be champing at the bit to pull the Giants singlet back on. He’s the vet every team would love to have.
The risk for the Giants is their schedule. Due to venue availability the Giants play six of their first eight games on the road and that is an unexpected risk should they struggle away from the Trafalgar Centre. That said, some teams just 'click' when they hit the road and Coach Fitchett will be hoping his familiar team will use their early travels to their advantage.
While so many other teams have made wholesale changes to where they were at back in 2019, the Giants have re-assembled a roster who have played a lot of basketball together. There is no more familiar team than the Giants, and it will be an advantage no other team has. The likes of Dempster, Ingham, Beri, Trathen, Bensemann, Aiolupotea, Marsh and Gargiulo aren't just teammates, their buddies away from basketball. Plus Leger and McNaught played for the Giants at the Showdown. The closeness of this team will lead to rewards at the toughest of times.
THREE THINGS THAT MUST GO RIGHT
MEMBERSHIPS & TICKETS
The Giants have the most lopsided schedule of any team, but if they can get off to a good start this is a schedule that has the potential to be a huge plus. With six of their first eight games on the road, including three tough double-headers, the schedule balances up with an amazing run of seven home games between May 29 and July 8. An early trip to Auckland to play the Bulls and Huskies looms as an important road trip, while the Southern Swing (Nuggets, Sharks) kicks in the week before the extended home run.
Monday April 26 | 2:00pm | vs Southland Sharks
Saturday May 8 | 7:30pm | @ Franklin Bulls
Sunday May 9 | 5:00pm | @ Auckland Huskies
Saturday May 15 | 7:30pm | @ Wellington Saints
Sunday May 16 | 5:00pm | @ Hawke’s Bay Hawks
Thursday May 20 | 7:30pm | vs Canterbury Rams
Saturday May 22 | 7:30pm | @ Otago Nuggets
Sunday May 23 | 5:00pm | @ Southland Sharks
Saturday May 29 | 7:30pm | vs Hawke’s Bay Hawks
Thursday June 3 | 7:30pm | vs Manawatu Jets
Monday June 7 | 2:00pm | vs Taranaki Mountainiars
Friday June 18 | 7:30pm | vs Otago Nuggets
Friday June 25 | 7:30pm | vs Wellington Saints
Friday July 2 | 7:30pm | vs Auckland Huskies
Thursday July 8 | 7:30pm | vs Franklin Bulls
Saturday July 10 | 7:30pm | @ Canterbury Rams
Saturday July 17 | 7:30pm | @ Taranaki Mountainairs
Sunday July 18 | 5:00pm | @ Manawatu Jets