The SIT Zero Fees Southland Sharks have landed another gun recruit with 2019 Sal's NBL championship-winning player Sunday Dech agreeing to move further south from the Wellington Saints.
Illawarra Hawks’ guard Dech will arrive in Invercargill next month, coming off an outstanding Australian NBL season which saw him earn nominations for both the League’s Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year. He also was named the Hawks’ Members’ Favourite Player at its end of season awards this week and has earned a call-up to the Australian Boomers national squad for this week’s internationals against the Tall Blacks and Hong Kong, capping a break-out season for the 26 year old Australian.
“It’s been awesome. I was very fortunate to get the opportunity I did and when it came I grabbed it and ran and never looked back. I think I improved on offence and defence and to get those nominations was a humbling experience to be recognised by the league and I’m super excited to keep developing this season with the Sharks and come back strong,” said Dech.
“Basketball is a funny game. You never know when your opportunity will come and the window is small so you’ve got to be ready when it does,” Dech added.
Dech was part of last season’s Sal’s NBL-winning Saints squad, a campaign he credits for his improvement this Australian NBL season. It also gave him a window into the Sharks set-up.
“Last season when we (Saints) came down, I saw how awesome the basketball community is in Southland and the awesome support around the club. The guys spoke so highly of the environment and that resonated with me. Hyrum (Harris, a team mate at Illawarra) did a lot of recruiting this season and once Bevo signed on as coach I was super keen to come on board,” he said.
Dech is also thankful for the role new Sharks’ Head Coach Rob “Bevo” Beveridge played over recent months.
“With Bevo living in Wollongong, throughout the season he’s mentored me and to be able to talk to him about games, plays and how to get better, really helped me on the court and showed he was really invested in my development. That’s something I want to continue, because it really helped me this past year,” Dech said.
The respect is mutual, with Beveridge delighted to add the personable Aussie to his roster for 2020.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be able to have Sunday join the Sharks. He is one of the hardest workers I have come across in my time as a coach and his work ethic and attitude to being the best he can be has a huge influence on his team mates,” Beveridge said.
“Sunday is an elite defender and a very good offensive player where he can shoot the three and get to the rim. He is going to be a perfect fit for our style of game.”
Dech joins fellow Australian Jarrad Weeks along with Kiwi talent Tom Vodanovich, Hyrum Harris, Dom Kelman-Poto and new recruits Alonzo Burton and Dane Brooks as confirmed Sharks for 2020 and his aims for his time in the south are pretty straight-forward.
“I want to keep it rolling and bring a championship back to Invercargill. I was fortunate to be a part of one last year with the Saints and with the team we have on paper, the coaching staff and the community, I think we can definitely do that.”
The 2020 Sal’s NBL tips off on Thursday 9 April with the Sharks starting on the road against the League’s newest addition, the Franklin Bulls on Friday 10 April. ILT Stadium Southland will host the Sharks home opener against the Manawatu Jets on Friday 24 April.
Season passes to watch all nine of the Sharks’ home games are on sale now at ILT Stadium Southland. For details visit sharksbasketball.co.nz/tickets.
BLACKSHEAR JOINS THE BULLS
The other big movers today were the Franklin Bulls with news the fledgling team had signed its third and final import, current NBA G League player, Wayne Blackshear.
Blackshear has a reputation is being an explosive, athletic, team-first guy with the talent to stretch the floor and go straight to the rim and finish. The Bulls believe he will be one of the most exciting guys to watch this Sal’s NBL season.
Blackshear is currently playing for the Boston Celtics’ affiliate G League team the Maine Redclaws, a team currently sitting second in their conference.
The strong forward was part of Rick Pitino's Louisville NCAA championship team (2013) and was a McDonald's All-Amercian in 2011. After going undrafted in the 2015 NBA draft, Blackshear joined the San Antonio Spurs for the 2015 NBA Summer League, before signing with Giorgio Tesi Pistoia of the Italian first division, and more recently signed with the Helsinki Seagulls of the Finnish league, before heading home to the States to begin his run back to the NBA.
The opportunity to come to New Zealand in the NBA off-season and work with Head Coach Liam Simmons was incredibly appealing to the 6’5 forward and Coach Simmons knows Wayne will be influential this season.
"Wayne has a chance to be a great player for our team this season and we are excited to have him join us. Wayne played for Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino at the University of Louisville and brings a grit and toughness that comes from playing under coach Pitino," said Simmons.
"At 6-5 Wayne can play anywhere on the floor and is a gifted scorer and elite defender. His G League and international experience will be of high value to our team this season. I am excited about Wayne as a basketball player but more excited about who he is as a person and how he will impact our local community and culture," added Simmons.
General Manager, Jamie Reddish believes signing Blackshear will take the team to yet another level.
“What sold us about Wayne was his commitment to the goal of the team this season. He’s had a long career through college and through his playing time in Europe and much of that experience was positive for the clubs. He’s a great fit for our community and I know he wants to make a massive statement before he heads back to the United States.”
Blackshear is expected to arrive in New Zealand in April at the completion of the NBA G League playoffs.
(Photo Credit: PhotosportNZ)