ANBL: Breakers did their best to keep key imports Shawn Long, Tai Wesley, says Kevin Braswell

NZ Breakers coach Kevin Braswell concedes there was nothing more he could do to keep last season's standout, Shawn Long.

On Sunday, Long tweeted that he was leaving the Breakers and moving to Melbourne to link up with last year's finalists, Melbourne United.

He'll join fellow former Breaker Tai Welsey in Melbourne, albeit on different teams.

The American import's departure leaves an indelible hole for the Kiwi franchise to fill, but Braswell knew within a few games they would struggle to keep the former NBA forward.

"After five games, we were looking at Shawn, saying this guy shouldn’t be here," Braswell told Newshub. "He should be playing NBA or high-level European basketball."

Braswell had hoped his close relationship with Long would help convince him to stay in New Zealand, but eventually they weren't able to compete with offers from their NBL rivals.

"All the way up until last Thursday, Shawn and I have been in contact" Braswell said.

"We talk about not just basketball stuff, but personal things. Even Wednesday, he reached out and said the talks were there [with Melbourne]."

Braswell said it was very rare to keep imports in the league. He himself left the Breakers after one full season and headed to Melbourne Tigers, so he understands the challenges of retaining talent better than most.

In Wesley's case, newcomers South East Melbourne Phoenix offered him a three-year deal, something which is unheard of for an import.

With the short time frame and uncertainty that came with professional basketball, you had to make hay while the sun shines, Braswell said.

"Shawn definitely wanted to come back, Tai wanted to come back as well" Braswell explained.

"It comes down to what you need and what does your family want.

"They're big losses, but we have time and we are going to do everything possible to make sure we put together a great team this year."

Attention now shifts to next season and who Braswell will recruit to replace both Long and Wesley.

He said a centre and a star point guard were a priority, but also players who were willing to defend and not just attack. When asked about whether he has the support of the owners to make that happen, he was clear.

"It will be full support. This is a big year for all of us and the Breakers organisation. 

"We were two years out of the playoffs last year, so I'm sure everyone will be doing their part to make sure that we get there this year."