The SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks will have an American duo on court in the 2021 Sal’s National Basketball League with the addition of experienced point guard Courtney Belger today.
Belger’s addition follows quickly on the heels of the weekend’s announcement of compatriot Daniel Alexander and comes as the NBL’s application for critical worker exemption status for overseas players and coaches is being considered by Immigration New Zealand.
A St Louis native, Belger has split his time over recent years between Australia and Germany, including the last four seasons at FC Schalke 04, where he has played in the German Pro A League since 2018.
He has been a consistent performer, averaging 14 points, 4 assists and 5 rebounds per game and has Southland Sharks’ Head Coach Rob Beveridge’s coaching network to thank for his landing in Invercargill.
“Playing in Western Australia my strength and conditioning coach and some of the guys I went up against are all tight with Bevo and they obviously said some nice things, so when I got the call it all just fell into place,” Belger said.
“I didn’t play this last season. My wife (professional women’s player Ali Schwagmeyer) and I have been apart playing in different countries for a long time so with the way the world is right now it was a good opportunity to watch her play and Sydney was one of the best situations. I was looking at playing in one of the State Leagues but to get to New Zealand and the Sharks is perfect,” he said.
Whilst he may not have as many stamps in his passport as wife Schwagmeyer, who turned out for the Sydney Flames in this year’s WNBL after three years at the Perth Lynx, Belger has her to thank for getting his start in his decade-long professional career.
“I got signed to my first contract in Mexico and I thought I had made it but I got cut after my first week. So, I went to visit my wife who was playing in Germany and I actually missed my flight home so ended up staying for an extra three weeks and it was during that time that coach saw me and I was picked up and away we went,” Belger said.
Coach Beveridge is delighted with how his 2021 squad is shaping up and believes Belger will be another seamless fit into his system.
“We are really happy with the recruitment of this year’s team. We have recruited some excellent young talented players and it was important to round out the roster with an experienced point guard in Courtney Belger,” Beveridge said.
“Courtney has come to Southland with the highest of recommendation from many coaches and players I have spoken to. He is a high character person, an outstanding leader with an incredible work ethic who will be a great mentor for our young guys on and off the court,” the coach said.
“Courtney is a very experienced veteran point guard where he has plied his trade overseas in Germany for 7 seasons and 3 seasons in the Western Australia State Basketball League. He is a tough competitor, a very smart player who can run a team, can score and makes other players around him better. I am delighted to have Courtney part of our Southland Sharks family this coming season,” Beveridge added.
The NBL’s submission for critical workers is currently being reviewed by Immigration New Zealand with a view to the players and coaches arriving in late March through to mid-April, in time for the competition’s April 24 tip-off.
The SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks open the season on the road in Nelson on Monday 26 April with its first home game at ILT Stadium Southland against the Taranaki Mountainairs on Thursday 29 April at 7:30pm.