It's been a while since we've seen the Wellington Saints in action, but the last time we did see them on court in the Sal's NBL they made one of the biggest statements in League history when they came from 20-odd points down with about 12 minutes to play in the 2019 championship decider to clip the Taylor Hawke's Bay Hawks by 10 points.
And did we mention that was also their twentieth straight win in an unbeaten season? Such is what you come to expect from the League's most successful franchise. Ironically on that night, the Hawks team they ran over the top of was coached by Zico Coronel, they very same whiteboard master who is now leading the Saints!
No doubt fans of the capital's team will be jumping out of their skin to see their team back in action, but will their return to the competition lead to another championship?
Let's take a closer look at the Saints' chances in the Sal's NBL 2021 season.
THE SAINTS ROSTER
Coach: Zico Coronel
2. Taane Samuel
6. Ezra Vaigafa
7. Kael Robinson
8. Isaac Miller-Jose
12. Kerwin Roach*
13. Dion Prewster
14. Thomas Gold
16. Tohi Smith-Milner
20. Kenneth Tuffin
21. Troy McLean
24. Rangimarie Mita
35. Romaro Gill*
Kerwin Roach looks a legitimate stud. The 24-year old Texan is a 193cm shooting guard out of the highly successful Texas Longhorns program where he delivered strong enough results to earn a NBA Summer League spot with the Charlotte Hornets, and time in the NBA G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Capable of running the show, the talented shooter will no doubt be given the green light by Coach Coronel to strut his stuff. Quick, athletic and full of flair, Roach has star status written all over him.
Romaro Gill stands at an imposing 218cm, making the Jamaican the tallest player to ever step on court in the Sal’s NBL. A true rim protector who loves nothing more than swatting away shots, Gill has the ability to severely disrupt any opponent looking for a lane to the hoop. If the big man can steer clear of foul trouble he has the ability to be an intriguing x-factor for the Saints and could be the toughest player to guard in the competition.
This is a much younger team than what we have come to expect from the Saints in the past, so with that in mind 31-year old Dion Prewster really is the veteran amongst this group. While Prewster brings a wealth of experience, it’s been a long time since he last stepped out for a game at this level (Grand Final, 2019 with the Hawks). The Saints will be looking to Prewster for leadership and a healthy dose of points.
The Saints have a relatively young squad this season, and to some degree are a little inexperienced compared to what we normally see at TSB Bank Arena. The biggest risk they face is a complete turnover of players from the 2019 squad and even though a couple of players have worn a Saints singlet in the past, in every sense this is a completely new group. Coach Coronel is a master at bringing teams together, so the task of introducing everyone to each other won't be daunting to him at all, but deep down he will be hoping they gel quickly and buy-in to his free-flowing system, together.
Coach Coronel proved to be a rising star in his own right when he guided the Hawke’s Bay Hawks to within sight of the 2019 Championship, only to be denied by a barnstorming finish by the Saints. In a crazy off-season the Saints swooped when Coronel became available, however with the team missing the 2020 Showdown, Coronel sat idle. If the talented coach gets going from where he left off, his recruitment to the nation’s capital could deliver plenty of rewards. It could be a masterstroke in a season where the race to the title is wide open.
THREE THINGS THAT MUST GO RIGHT
MEMBERSHIPS & TICKETS
Five home games in their first six is a schedule most teams would crave, and it could well set the Saints up nicely, but of course this is cancelled out down the track when the Saints will finish the regular season with four trips on the road from their final five games. Early home games against the Rams and Sharks in successive weeks will tell us a bit, while a final round trip to Auckland to play the Bulls and Huskies could be telling if the battle for the Final 4 is close.
Saturday April 24 | 7:30pm | @ Nuggets
Friday April 30 | 7:30pm | v Rams
Friday May 7 | 7:30pm | v Sharks
Saturday May 15 | 7:30pm | v Giants
Thursday May 20 | 7:30pm | v Bulls
Friday May 28 | 7:30pm | v Huskies
Friday June 4 | 7:30pm | @ Sharks
Saturday June 5 | 7:30pm | @ Rams
Sunday June 13 | 5:00pm | v Jets
Friday June 18 | 7:30pm | @ Hawks
Saturday June 19 | 7:30pm | v Airs
Friday June 25 | 7:30pm | @ Giants
Sunday June 27 | 5:00pm | v Hawks
Friday July 2 | 7:30pm | @ Airs
Saturday July 10 | 7:30pm | @ Jets
Monday July 12 | 7:30pm | v Nuggets
Friday July 16 | 7:30pm | @ Bulls
Saturday July 17 | 7:30pm | @ Huskies