The last time the Go Media Otago Nuggets were on a basketball court they were lifting the Sal's NBL Showdown Trophy, however the last time the Nuggets stepped out at Dunedin's Edgar Centre in the League was nearly 1600 days ago!
Fast forward to Saturday April 24, 2021 and anything less than a packed crowd welcoming the Nuggets home for their season opener against 2019 Champions the Wellington Saints will be a disappointment.
For years the Nuggets faithful have been dreaming of a return to basketball's national stage and now they can finally rug up on a Saturday night and see their team back on home turf.
Let's take a closer look at the Nuggets and assess their chances at claiming more silverware.
GO MEDIA OTAGO NUGGETS ROSTER
Coach: Brent Matehaere
Matt Bardsley (pictured)
Sam Timmins is the homegrown star all Nuggets fans can’t wait to see back playing locally, especially after being snapped up by the Bulls in the draft for last year’s Showdown. Currently plying his trade in Estonia, Timmins will hopefully be back for opening night when the Nuggets host the Saints. If the big centre can control the paint at both ends of the floor, it promises to be a standout season and just the boost the Nuggets need in their first full NBL gig since 2014.
Isaiah Moss could be one that flies under the radar to start the season, but if he delivers on his pedigree it won’t take long for opposition teams to step up their scouting reports. After three seasons at Iowa, Moss switched to Kansas University (Jayhawks) for his senior year, where he had nine starts in 30 games and went on to notch up 1,144 career points.
It’s literally impossible to tag any player as a veteran given the age of this squad – they look set to be one of the youngest in the competition. Last year’s Showdown gave many of these players a chance to experience life in the NBL and that will go a long way to helping them settle into 2021. No veteran status stands out - the role on imparting wisdom and life experience will fall squarely on the shoulders of the coach, who proved his weight in gold in that department last year.
The Nuggets have assembled a well-balanced squad, but is there enough star power? There is no denying the homegrown talent is good and will keep getting better as they accumulate more games together, but some top-flight performances are going to be needed and the risk here is this team looks very even.
Balancing out the risk is the fact that many of these guys have played a lot of local basketball together, so they know each other’s game very well. Coach Matehaere proved at the Showdown that he has the unique ability of quickly developing unity and belonging, two ingredients that could reward the Nuggets in spades this season.
THREE THINGS THAT MUST GO RIGHT
Opening night is a biggie. The 2020 Showdown Champs will welcome the 2019 NBL Champion Wellington Saints to the Edgar Centre in Dunedin for the first Nuggets home game since 2014. The Nuggs then back that up with two more home games - who doesn’t love to start a season with three straight in front of their home fans? June 5 brings about the first Southern Stoush for 7 years, when the Sharks bus it up to Dunners with their orange clad fans in tow. The return fixture on July 9 begins a tough run to the playoffs for the Nuggets. They’ll finish the season with the Sharks and Saints on the road, then the Rams at home. Get through that and they’ll have deserved a final four spot.
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Saturday April 24 | 7:30pm | v Saints
Saturday May 1 | 7:30pm | v Mountainairs
Saturday May 8 | 7:30pm | v Jets
Saturday May 15 | 7:30pm | @ Jets
Sunday May 16 | 5:00pm | @Airs
Saturday May 22 | 7:30pm | v Giants
Thursday May 27 | 7:30pm | @ Bulls
Saturday May 29 | 7:30pm | @ Huskies
Saturday June 5 | 7:30pm | v Sharks
Thursday June 10 | 7:30pm | @ Rams
Saturday June 12 | 7:30pm | @ Hawks
Friday June 18 | 7:30pm | @ Giants
Sunday June 20 | 5:00pm | v Bulls
Sunday June 27 | 5:00pm | v Huskies
Saturday July 3 | 7:30pm | v Hawks
Friday July 9 | 7:30pm | @ Sharks
Monday July 12 | 7:30pm | @ Saints
Saturday July 17 | 7:30pm | v Rams