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