Player’s important role

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THE Southland Sharks seem to have a golden touch when it comes to recruitment.

While most New Zealand National Basketball League teams scout the American ranks to fill roster spots, the Sharks have not been afraid to look outside the square in recent years.

They have unearthed some beauties in the process.

In 2014 they lured Guam international Tai Wesley to the New Zealand league and he has since made a big impression in both the New Zealand and Australian leagues.

The Sharks also opted to buck the trend when signing Australians Todd Blanchfield, Nick Kay and Jarrad Weeks. They, too, have turned out to be some of the better imports in the New Zealand league.

This year the Sharks have added a Canadian international to the mix, and he just might provide a trump card as the 2018 Sharks team search for the organisation’s third NBL title.

Canadian Conor Morgan was the last signing for the Sharks in the lead up to this year’s season, joining Weeks and American Orlando Coleman as the three overseas imports on the roster.

Morgan helped Canada knock the Tall Blacks out in the semi-finals at the Commonwealth Games before he linked with the Sharks in Invercargill in April.

It was Morgan’s performances at the Commonwealth Games which prompted Sharks coach Judd Flavell to snap him up.

“When I saw him go up against the Tall Blacks and the Boomers (Australia), I knew if he could do it against them he could do it here,” Flavell said.

Morgan has quickly developed into one of the NBL’s premier signings this year as the Sharks eye their final five round-robin fixtures before an expected trip to the finals series in Wellington.

Not surprisingly, coach Flavell was delighted with what he landed in Morgan – not just through his playing attributes, but also how he had conducted himself as a team member and in the Southland community.

“Right from day one he has fitted in well, you can tell he wanted to be part of this team,” Flavell said.

“He’s fitted in that well you could almost call him a local now.

“This club is a community club. That is important when we look for players, that they know what the club is all about. But until they get here you never quite know what you are getting.”

Morgan’s stint with the Sharks is his first professional contract after graduating from the University of British Columbia, where he earned back-to-back Conference MVP and First Team All Canadian honours.

Morgan provides a unique skill set – he stands at 203cm tall and is a dangerous threat from the three-point line. He was originally a point guard where he developed those impressive shooting skills before he underwent a growth spurt and a positional switch occurred.

“He is the modern-day four-man,” Flavell said of Morgan’s role.

With five round-robin fixtures to play, the Sharks sit third with a 10-win, three-loss record, but have a game in hand on the Wellington Saints and Nelson Giants, who sit first and second, respectively.

The Sharks banked wins over the Super City Rangers and Giants on the road last week and now eye another two games on the road this week.

They take on Taranaki in New Plymouth tonight and will then square off against the Manawatu Jets in Palmerston North on Saturday afternoon.

With the finals series in Wellington this year, Flavell suggested they needed to get accustomed to trying to deliver back-to-back wins on the road.

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