The Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams are seeking a return to the postseason after missing out on last year's Final Four. Their 2018 Sal’s NBL run concluded with an 8-10 record, good enough for fifth.
The Rams are hopeful that their 2019 roster’s combination of experience and youth will spearhead a playoff run. Head Coach Mick Downer says he loves the attitude his players have exemplified so far.
“We’ve had just over a week and half of preseason, with about eight to ten guys at practice and I’ve been really impressed with the efforts and dedication the boys are showing.
“I’m really big on having contributions across the board, rather than from a handful of guys, and so if I had to go off the preseason and look at how we shape up for my plans and the season, I think we’re in a pretty good place.”
The team has revamped their roster and are only welcoming three players back from the previous season. Among the losses are all three of last year’s imports, Winston Shepard III (2018 All-Star Five member), Xavier Thames and Julian Williams-Washburn, all of whom averaged 14+ points per game and cleaned up the majority of the opposition’s misses. Williams-Washburn is currently playing in the NBA for the Memphis Grizzlies. The Rams have also lost Junior Tall Black and 2018 Sal’s NBL Rookie of the Year Max Darling to Croatian side Vrijednosnice Osijek.
Brought in to occupy one of the Rams scoring vacancies is forward Isaiah Wilkins. The 6’8” forward spent four years at the University of Virginia and spent time with the Houston Rockets in the Summer League before signing with NBA G League side he Greensboro Swarm. The American big man was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year during his senior year at varsity and will act as a lockdown defender in coach Downer’s line-up.
Other new recruits include Australian guard Cameron Gliddon and youngsters Sam Smith and Jonathan Janssen. Gliddon won a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and was a member of the past season’s ANBL side the Brisbane Bullets. Smith and Janssen arrive in Christchurch after time in the US collegiate system.
The Rams first opportunity to chalk up a strike in the win column comes in week one on Sunday April 14, where they head south to play defending champions the SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks.