The Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams have been building an outstanding development programme for a number of years now and it seems we are seeing the fruits of that labour coming to life.
With a young and talented squad at his disposal, Coach Mick Downer must be quietly optimistic about his team's chances this season, especially given the local talent has been bolstered with the addition of top flight imports DeShon Taylor and EJ Singler.
Let's take a closer look at the Rams' chances in the Sal's NBL 2021 season.
THE RAMS ROSTER
Coach: Mick Downer
1. Derek Albertsen
2. Ben Hall
4. Sam Smith
5. Taylor Britt
10. Ben Constable
11. Joe Cook-Green
20. Jack Exeter
21. Deshon Taylor*
24. Alex Talma
25. EJ Singler*
32. Quinton Bailey
33. Jack Salt (pictured)
Jack Salt is one of the biggest Kiwi names in the League and it finally looks like we are about to see the former NCAA Champ strut his stuff in the Sal's NBL. The imposing centre has so many people looking forward to seeing him back in action, especially the Rams fans (of course). If Salt can settle in and find his feet he will no doubt quickly show his class, something the Rams will step gently forward with as they keep a firm eye on the bigger picture towards the end of the season. The star factor of Salt is undeniable.
DeShon Taylor is quietly spoken and goes about his business, but his business is very good. A quality distributor who can also find his own points, Taylor is an astute addition by the Rams and is set to deliver plenty of highlights. The talented American will bring x-factor to every game, he'll get others involved and he'll entertain. Taylor will be one to watch this season and looks a perfect fit to help the Rams make a serious run at the championship.
30-year old EJ Singler could be the recruit of the season, and even better he comes with the high-level experience that the younger players around him will feed off. Capable of stuffing the stat sheet, Singler is humble and will take time out to teach and involve others, which is exactly what you want from a vet. When the going gets tough, Singler proved in 2019 that he is at the pointy end in the Sal's NBL and no doubt he'll be right up the front again. Look for Singler to lead this Rams outfit with outstanding professionalism.
The only real risk for the Rams is they will need to take good care of Salt, and also slowly nurture Joe Cook-Green back from his knee injury. If both Salt and JCG are standing tall come finals time it will be a huge plus for the Rams. The other 'known' risk - will Taylor Britt get back from the Perth Wildcats in time to play?
The Rams' ability to develop athletic young players is about to pay dividends. This team has a number of rising stars and each year we get more of a look at them. In particular there is so much to like about Sam Smith, who really took his opportunity at the 2020 Showdown. The rewards are coming - this team is a production plant for basketballers. Get excited Rams fans.
THREE THINGS THAT MUST GO RIGHT
MEMBERSHIPS & TICKETS
The Rams start their season with a bang, hitting the road to take on the Saints and Hawks in an enthralling start to their campaign. From there they play six of their next seven at home and can really set themselves up nicely if they get on a roll. Trips to Taranaki, Auckland (twice) and Manawatu in the thick of winter will provide a good test, while the Southern Swing to play the Sharks and Nuggets in Round 12 could prove interesting. All up, a good schedule for the Rams.
Friday April 30 | 7:30pm | @ Wellington Saints
Sunday May 2 | 3:00pm | @ Hawke’s Bay Hawks
Friday May 7 | 7:30pm | vs Manawatu Jets
Friday May 14 | 7:30pm | vs Auckland Huskies
Thursday May 20 | 7:30pm | @ Nelson Giants
Saturday May 22 | 7:30pm | vs Franklin Bulls
Sunday May 30 | 5:00pm | vs Hawke’s Bay Hawks
Saturday June 5 | 7:30pm | vs Wellington Saints
Thursday June 10 | 7:30pm | vs Otago Nuggets
Sunday June 13 | 3:00pm | @ Taranaki Mountainairs
Thursday June 17 | 7:30pm | @ Auckland Huskies
Sunday June 20 | 5:00pm | vs Taranaki Mountainiars
Thursday June 24 | 7:30pm | @ Franklin Bulls
Saturday June 26 | 7:30pm | @ Manawatu Jets
Friday July 2 | 7:30pm | vs Southland Sharks
Saturday July 10 | 7:30pm | vs Nelson Giants
Thursday July 15 | 7:30pm | @ Southland Sharks
Saturday July 17 | 7:30pm | @ Otago Nuggets