BOOMERS READY FOR KIWI CHAL­LENGE

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - LIAM BUT­TER­WORTH

Brad Newley has been named in the strong 12- man Aus­tralian Boomers team to tackle New Zealand in the up­com­ing two- game FIBA Ocea­nia Cham­pi­onship se­ries next month in Mel­bourne and Welling­ton.

TOWNSVILLE Crocodiles coach Shawn Dennis said Leon Henry’s re­demp­tion showed how some­one can turn a neg­a­tive to a pos­i­tive af­ter the for­ward went from fac­ing prison to a New Zealand rep­re­sen­ta­tive re­call in­side 12 months.

Henry was a chance of blow­ing his en­tire ca­reer af­ter as­sault­ing staff out­side a New Ply­mouth nightspot in May last year, but his turn­around on and off the court means he will fly to Europe next week as part of the Tall Blacks 14- man squad and play against Great Bri­tain, Croa­tia and Slove­nia.

Those matches, as well as theh S Stankovic Cup in China next month, are part of the Kiwi’s prepa­ra­tions for 2016 Olympic qual­i­fiers against Aus­tralia in Mel­bourne and Welling­ton in late Au­gust.

The 29- year- old had his sen­tenc­ing de­layed so he could play for the Crocs last sea­son and since re­turn­ing to New Zealand in March he has abided by com­mu­nity de­ten­tion, a cur­few, paid repa­ra­tions to his vic­tims and spent hun­dreds of hours coach­ing young bas­ket­ball play­ers while play­ing for the Welling­ton Saints in the NZNBL.

His co- of­fend­ers in that brawl, Shea Ili and Reuben Te Rangi, are also in Paul Henare’s Tall Blacks squad to tour Europe and Dennis said Henry’s first call- up to the na­tional team since the in­ci­dent was just re­ward for a pos­i­tive turn­around.

“He’s turned it all around into a real pos­i­tive,” Dennis said.

“He’s gone away and done all that and now he’s show­ing that peo­ple can make a change.’’

At the same time as serv­ing his pun­ish­ment, Henry has also been more pro­fes­sional on the train­ing court and his av­er­age of 14.6 points at 48.5 per cent is his best shoot­ing per­for­mance ever in the league.

“He’s re­ally fo­cused in on the job at hand and that’s show­ing,’’ Dennis said.

“For him, it’s just a great re­ward.

“I know last year he worked re­ally hard in the gym and lift­ing weights and he worked very hard to be a more con­sis­tent shooter.”

Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare will trim the 14- man squad down to 12 for the two Olympic qual­i­fiers, and Dennis be­lieved Henry should be a strong chance of fac­ing the Boomers.

“He’ll keep get­ting his op­por­tu­ni­ties and if he keeps grab­bing them in the way he’s gone about it over the last 12 months, then I def­i­nitely think he’s a big chance and I’d be sur­prised if he doesn’t make it,” he said.

Henry is cur­rently in camp with the Tall Blacks squad in Napier and will fly to Lon­don on July 19.

Pic­ture: WES­LEY MONTS

KIWI CHOICE: Townsville Crocodiles for­ward Leon Henry ( right) has been named in the New Zealand squad for the up­com­ing in­ter­na­tional bas­ket­ball sea­son.

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