Playing legend, Mika Vukona, has registered for the Sal’s NBL 2020 draft.
This is an exceptional commitment made by the 162-test Tall Black captain. Not only has Vukona signed up for the six-week competition, he’ll also travel from Australia and enter two weeks of quarantine before tip-off.
Vukona says is will be tough to be away from his family for two months, but they support the decision to play.
“It’s always hard every time you leave your family. Obviously coming over and getting the blessing by the family was a huge thing. But quarantine will be something new and I’m always up for new challenges.”
Vukona has been following the news about the reformatted competition and says he likes how 2020 League has come together. He says he wants to get back to where his career began in 2000 when he was still a student at Nelson College.
“Just watching [the League’s plan] unfold and the amount of hours and energy that people have put into it, it looks pretty awesome. With everything that’s unfolded in the last couple of weeks, I just thought it would be fun to go back to the roots and enjoy playing. I love playing, it’s a bit of an addiction.
“This is where I made a living, this is where I got discovered, playing in this League.”
The NBL is a scouting ground for the Tall Blacks and Vukona says this year will be no different.
“I was talking to Pero a couple of days ago and he’s definitely going to be keeping an eye on this. You just never know who is going to spring up and put their hands up. We had Rob Loe when he was 16 or 17, Isaac Fotu is another example.
“It’s going to be great to see the talent coming through. It’s huge, not just because you’re 16 or 17, but for guys that are free agents or fringe players in the ANBL – it’s a great position to showcase your talents. We’ve had coaches over [in Australia] talk about it.”
With basketball on hold in Australia due to COVID-19, Vukona says he has spent the last ten weeks in lockdown, which has given him time to prepare for a return to the court.
“I had a pretty light load during the ANBL, plus getting away for ten weeks has been great for me. I think that is why the fire is there.
“It’s an opportunity to play and within a six-week period, three games a week – for me, as a basketball nut, it’s heaven.”
The rookies that could be rostered in Vukona’s team will have a chance to tap into one of New Zealand’s most experienced players. Vukona debuted for the Tall Blacks in 2005. He is the only Tall Black to have played at both the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Add to that three FIBA World Championships – 2006, 2010 and 2014. (He missed 2019 due to injury).
Vukona spent 13 seasons with the Breakers in the ANBL, playing a record 354 games before signing a two-year contract with the Brisbane Bullets for 2018-2020. He has won five ANBL titles, four with the Breakers and one with South Dragons in 2009.