Oct 9 2019

Vickerman to do things his way at Breakers

Make no mistake, the Breakers are Dean Vickerman’s ball club now, and will have his stamp on them when the NBL season rolls round in a little over a month.
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The threepeat champions started pre-season training this week with Tall Blacks skipper Mika Vukona the last of the squad to roll after having an extended break to attend a wedding overseas.

And after the biggest off-season shake-up since the club morphed from pretenders to contenders, Vickerman is well aware he has plenty to do ahead of the season tip-off against the Wollongong Hawks at Vector Arena on October 10.

Not only has Vickerman come in to replace Andrej Lemanis as head coach after the latter departed to take up the reins of the Australian men’s national programme, but there has been a significant turnover in personnel, including imports and a new assistant coach in the form of foundation player Paul Henare.

With talismanic league MVP Cedric Jackson declining to return to Auckland and Will Hudson not retained, the Breakers have gone with Belmont University southpaw Kerron Johnson and ex-Sydney King Darnell Lazare as their restricted players for 2013-14.

They’ve also promoted development player Reuben Te Rangi and brought back former Tall Black Jeremiah Trueman to fill the spots of Leon Henry (unwanted) and Dillon Boucher (retired).

“We’ve got seven [pre-season] games for me, for Kerron, for all the new guys. It’s going to be important we get our systems and structures in place very quickly and we just learn how to play,” Vickerman said.

“If it’s a new brand of Breakers basketball or whatever it becomes, with a new group it’s always a bit different every year when you turn people over.”

Vickerman is intent on stamping his mark on these Breakers, so expect some tweaks and adjustments to the way the team plays. But he also won’t veer dramatically from a formula that’s worked so well for the club en route to the championship treble.

“We sat down and spoke as a coaching staff, and defensively we loved the style we played last year. We thought it was an enjoyable style, a disruptive style and led to us forcing turnovers and creating fast-break opportunities where we are at our best, running or making dunks or getting early three-point shots.

“I want to play that style again. But it will be different with the personnel we have. Darnell stretches the floor a little more than Dillon Boucher, and Dillon was an outstanding passer and got other people involved, so it’s going to be different in those positions.”

But it’s at the offensive end where Vickerman hopes to stamp his mark more.

“You always bring a little bit of your own flavour there,” he said. “Our early offence won’t change too much. We want Kerron into early on-balls and spreading the floor and we want Alex [Pledger] running at the rim early.

“Then as we get into it a bit more we’ll have some different motions. I really want to try find a bit more for our 2s and 3s (shooting guards and small forwards) coming off staggered screens. There will be some changes to the offence.”

Vickerman said he wasn’t locked into a starting five yet, and would keep an open mind through the pre-season. His main puzzlers will be between Daryl Corletto and Corey Webster at two guard and whether he uses Lazare off the bench, as they did Hudson last year.

“I’ve never been that strict on starting fives, and it may change throughout the season for various games. We’ve got a lot of people pushing for starting spots and that’s a positive thing. At some point before the first game we’ve just got to get everyone accepting of the role they’re given.

“Whatever’s best for the group will be who starts the season and players will decide that through the pre-season.”

Vickerman said it was too early to tell how effective Johnson would be in the influential point guard role, but he had certainly presented in great condition, with his skinfold measurements well under the Breakers’ minimal requirements.

“We recruited him for a skillset he’s got, and that’s his quickness, and his ability to get in the lane. He’s a good free-throw shooter, he’s drawn a lot of fouls in his career, and it will be interesting to see how he’s refereed the way he attacks the basket.

“Right now I’d say his shot is marginally better than Ced’s so they’re going to have to play him a little more aggressively.”

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