From Stuff.co.nz (5 June 2014)
Southland Sharks bulk up their sagging stocks
The Southland Sharks have signed two players for the rest of their 2014 National Basketball League campaign.
The Sharks squad was depleted with three players suspended indefinitely last week after Gareth Dawson had already been stood down.
One signing is Tai Wesley, who has been playing in the Netherlands where he averaged more than 14 points and six rebounds per game in 77 games.
Wesley, who qualifies for the Sharks under the newly initiated FIBA Oceania Pacific Island rule, has been cleared by the NBL board due to his Fijian heritage and association with Guam Basketball.
The rule means players from Pacific Island countries can play in the New Zealand league but are not regarded as one of two imports teams can carry.
Wesley played college basketball at Utah State University and was named the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2011 and entered workouts with the Minnesota Timberwolves after college.
He then went on to play professionally in the Netherlands and in France, where he won the Dutch League with Den Bosch in 2012 and 2013.
"Tai has been on our radar for some time. We were pretty close to signing his older brother, Mekeli, but the timing wasn't right. With Tai recently finishing his season in Holland and our need to bolster our stocks, his arrival will be very helpful for our team," Henare said.
It was Henare's mate at the Breakers, Gary Wilkinson, who gave the Sharks coach the confidence to sign Wesley.
"The biggest endorsement came from Gary Wilkinson. He played with Tai for a couple of years at Utah State and he knows him very well. He spoke really highly of him as a player and a person. That was enough for me really" . . .
From Stuff.co.nz (14 June 2014)
Tai Wesley a prize catch for Southland Sharks
Southland Sharks coach Paul Henare is pleased with what he has seen from new recruit Tai Wesley, and is predicting even bigger things from him in the weeks ahead.
The Sharks signed the 28-year-old former Utah State College player to fill the void when Gareth Dawson was stood down after testing positive for a banned substance.
Henare did a good job in sourcing Wesley, considering his two "import" spots were already taken in the Sharks squad by Kevin Braswell and Brian Conklin.
With the options in New Zealand limited, given most players are already signed to NBL clubs, Henare looked at the new Fiba Oceania rule.
The rule allows players from the Pacific Islands to be signed to play in the New Zealand league without being classed as an import.
Wesley has Fijian heritage and has an association with Guam Basketball. He arrived in Invercargill last Friday from Europe, where he had been playing in the Netherlands league, and in the next two days lined up for the Sharks against Manawatu and Otago.
Henare said he was impressed with what he had seen from Wesley so far.
"I think all things considered he did pretty well. He's a high-IQ basketball player, he's quite a smart guy, and I think that showed in the way he played and the way he fitted in. He has also really fitted in well with the guys and I think he will only get better once he feels a bit more fresh. He's been a great fit," Henare said. Wesley has given Southland another key player under the basket alongside Conklin.
Dawson's key role with the Sharks was his rebounding ability, but it seems Wesley brings another scoring option as well. "It's obviously not something we've had for the past couple of years - two legit scoring threats down low, so I'm more than happy to be able to use those strengths to our advantage," Henare said.
"Like I said I think he's just going to get more and more comfortable as long as he is here."
The Sharks have five round-robin fixtures remaining and it seems two wins might be enough to book a playoff spot.
Southland will take on Waitakere in Auckland tonight, followed by Hawke's Bay in Napier tomorrow night.
Puke Lenden remains with the Sharks on a game-by-game basis, but he did head back to his home city of Hamilton this week, limiting his training time with the Sharks.
"He is working fulltime and got his family in Hamilton, but he has agreed to come and join us on the road, so he'll be up there playing for us this weekend in Auckland and down in Hawke's Bay. He's been awesome."
Conklin is still struggling with an ankle injury, limiting his time training this week.
"He is still hobbling around a bit. I guess realistically, it is probably an injury where he would be sitting out if we could afford it, so he's pretty much had to sit out all last week in training."
From Stuff.co.nz (7 July 2014)
Shark Tai Wesley becomes hot ANBL prospect
It seems Tai Wesley's impressive seven games with the Southland Sharks may have Australian National Basketball League clubs circling.
Wesley was called into the Sharks squad midway through the 2014 season as replacement for Gareth Dawson, who was stood down after he tested positive for a banned drug.
Henare did a good job sourcing the 28-year-old former Utah State College player, considering his two "import" spots in the Sharks squad were already taken.
With the options in New Zealand limited, Henare looked at the new Fiba Oceania rule.
The rule allows players from the Pacific Islands to be signed to play in the New Zealand league without being classed as imports.
Wesley, who has Fijian heritage and has played for Guam, arrived in New Zealand after playing in the Netherlands league.
In his seven games in the NBL he produced 15.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
Given Wesley would also not count as an import in the ANBL, he has become a hot prospect.
If Wesley were to sign with an Australian NBL club instead of going back to Europe, it would put the Sharks in a strong position to try to get him back for next year.
"He's obviously showed his class and for a local player he is quite a catch, really," Henare said.
"I imagine he would have created interest in the Australian league with his eligibility, so obviously that would work out best for us. But he's got to do his thing and see what happens there, and once he knows, we'll hopefully be able to finalise something with him.
"Hopefully, we did enough as a club for Tai for him to enjoy his time in Southland and see it as a place where he wants to play in the future but obviously he is going to have some interest from all corners if he does come back to New Zealand." ...
From New Zealand Herald News (22 July 2014)
Breakers sign Tai Wesley
The Breakers have followed up last week's news that Cedric Jackson has signed a two year contract to once again play for the club with another player signing, announcing Guam international Tai Wesley to the playing roster for the 2014/15 campaign.
Wesley has an interesting background that includes his recent stint with Paul Henare's Southland Sharks in the Bartercard NBL, during which the power forward impressed with his scoring and rebounding ability, helping the undermanned Sharks into the Final Four weekend with 16 points and 9.4 rebounds per game.
A Guam international, Wesley has a Fijian father and while he comes out of the American system at Utah State, he is not regarded as an import in the ANBL under the new FIBA Oceania Player Rule.
Henare spoke of what he has seen of Wesley at the Sharks and why he will be a good fit for the Breakers.
"He is a very versatile player, a very high IQ player, for a power forward he can handle the ball well and is a good passer and is mobile, a bit of a unique skill set and he brings a real versatility to the team, which will help us out.
"Tai is very good in the low post, I spoke to Gary Wilkinson about him when I was recruiting for the Sharks and Gary rated him highly as a post player, he has an array of moves down low where he can score. But he seems like a guy that will do whatever we need, rebound, pass, score, and has that versatility.
"He is obviously a very high quality person as well, he immersed himself into New Zealand in his short time at the Sharks and fitted in well. The new Oceania player rule is a great bonus, that was the reason we could get him in Southland but to have this calibre of player as a local is a big advantage."
Wesley revealed of another link to New Zealand and the Breakers that has led him via the Sharks to the North Shore based club.
"The contract between myself and the Breakers came about mostly because of Gary Wilkinson. He and I are really good friends and played college ball together for two years at Utah State so he actually recommended me to first go play with the Southland Sharks.
"He had a really good relationship with Pauli and since they were at a point where they needed a couple guys it worked out really well for me to step in and play. From there I think the Breakers saw me and, with Pauli being the assistant with the Breakers, we worked out a deal."
Wesley will join the club in late August to begin preparations for the new season and will eagerly await the return of the club's Tall Black players from the FIBA World Cup in Spain which gets underway in late August.