Manawatu Standard

Studious Prewster has been a real class act for Saints

At a glance

- Brendon Egan

NBL Final Four, all games at Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua (figures in parenthese­s denote regular season finish):

(1) Wellington Saints v (4) Auckland Huskies

(2) Hawke’s Bay Hawks v (3) Southland Sharks

Tomorrow: Grand final (8pm start)

Wellington Saints’ swingman Dion Prewster spent the summer poring over footage of Europe’s best basketball guards and he’s reaped the rewards.

The 31-year-old couldn’t have scripted a better Tuesday, waking up to the news he’d been named National Basketball League MVP after a stellar season for the tabletoppi­ng Saints.

Later in the day, it was confirmed he will return to the Australian NBL for the 2021-22 season, signing with defending champions, Melbourne United, coached by his former mentor Dean Vickerman.

Prewster and the Saints will be gunning for their 12th championsh­ip in team history at the Final Four in Wellington at Porirua’s Te Rauparaha Arena over the next two days.

The Saints take on the Auckland Huskies in the first semifinal tonight (6pm start) with the Hawke’s Bay Hawks meeting the Southland Sharks from 8pm. The winners clash in tomorrow’s grand final.

In his fifth season with the Saints and 10th in the league, Tall Black Prewster has flourished in an expanded role, where he has had to do a bit of everything and played significan­t minutes. He has averaged 18.7 points on 56 per cent shooting, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game, threatenin­g a triple-double in several outings.

Prewster, who didn’t feature in the Covid-19 inspired NBL Showdown last year, attributed part of his career-best season down to his film study of leading Euroleague guards, including Serbian slasher Vasilije Micic´ .

Micic´ , who plays for Turkish side Anadolu Efes was MVP of the

Semifinals, tonight, 6pm: 8pm:

Euroleague season – Europe’s premier club competitio­n.

Knowing he’d have the ball in his hand a lot this season, Prewster spent countless hours watching and practising the pick and roll move, where a team-mate sets a screen for the person dribbling the ball, then moves towards the basket to receive the pass.

‘‘I watched him all summer. I’m a big fan of his game. He’s a similar size, same game. He’s just smooth, man, and knows how to play the game the right way. I watched him all summer and it really helped my developmen­t.

‘‘There’s so much to learn. European style basketball, I find it really fascinatin­g because they just play differentl­y.’’

Saints coach Zico Coronel, who previously worked with Prewster as a Saints’ assistant and head coach of the Hawks, said his improvemen­t was a credit to his work ethic and dedication.

‘‘There’s very few players, especially in this part of the world that make such significan­t strides in their basketball game at that age,’’ Coronel said.

‘‘Most players by the time they’re [early 30s] they’re mostly set. They’re the player they are going to be. For Dion to make so many significan­t strides is a testament to his ongoing studiousne­ss.’’

A deep thinker of the game, Coronel said it had been a thrill to

‘‘Certain people in my inner circle gave me the encouragem­ent and guidelines to improve as a basketball player.’’ Dion Prewster

receive messages from Prewster in the off-season, hearing him break down Euroleague plays.

Prewster had taken on a major role around strength and conditioni­ng with the Saints this season, a strong passion of his.

‘‘It’s been a pleasure to see someone fall in love with basketball and the intricate details,’’ Coronel said.

‘‘He’s in the midst of watching Vasilije Micic´ or a Mike James, or one of the other great pick and roll players, and he’s doing a deep dive film study on them and trying to mine it for little nuggets he can add to his game.’’

Prewster was back in his happy place with basketball after going through a stage, where he wondered where his career was heading. Wife Tomoko and family and friends had been integral in helping him through.

‘‘I kind of hit a plateau and was wondering why I wasn’t getting opportunit­ies. I was a little bit down and could have packed it in, but I love the game so much.

‘‘I just took a deep breath and certain people in my inner circle gave me the encouragem­ent and guidelines to improve as a basketball player.’’

Prewster, who was a member of the New Zealand Breakers’ championsh­ip-winning squad in 2012, last played in the ANBL in 2017 with the Sydney Kings.

He was excited to link with Vickerman, who was an assistant with the Kings during his stint there. With Melbourne, Prewster would likely be used as a bench spark plug and defensive stopper.

A three-time Kiwi NBL champion with the Saints in 2011, 2014, and 2016, Prewster was highly motivated to cap off a memorable season and nab a

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand