The New Zealand Breakers have been given a huge boost ahead of their second match of the season with Tall Blacks guard Corey Webster passing a fitness test and cleared to play.
The 32-year-old suffered a freak injury in preseason and had to undergo surgery on his left, non-shooting hand, after slicing a nerve, while attempting to cut an avocado.
Webster passed a vigorous fitness test and will take to the court against the Adelaide 36ers in Adelaide on Wednesday night as the New Zealand side looks for their first win of the season.
"I'm ready to go, man. I'm good, feeling good, haven't had any pain, so I’m good for the game," a confident Webster says. "I could play the whole game as I’ve been doing a lot of running, a lot of training since I hurt my hand so I could play as many minutes as Dan wants me to, if he wanted me to play the whole game, then I could for sure."
Coach Dan Shamir feels the addition of Webster will transform his side ahead of their second outing.
"When you see Webster on the floor and together with Tai Webster, Lamar Patterson, Tom Abercrombie and Finn Delany, it changes things for you," Shamir says.
The pair struck up an obvious connection in their first season together, with the guard a revelation in his 11 games under the new coach. The Tall Black averaged 19-points a game before being granted leave midway through the season to play in Italy.
"I feel like I've known Corey for a long time and I don’t know why," Shamir says. "We’ve spent a lot of time in the last year and a half together obviously and it feels like we’ve been through a lot last year because it wasn’t a good time for the team.
"We had a lot of injuries, we were shorthanded, and we went out for a war together."
The Breakers take on the 2-2 36ers again on Wednesday as they look to bounce back from their season-opening loss in overtime and square the series.
Shamir is confident Webster will get through a truckload of minutes but will manage him, in his first appearance for the season.
"I don’t think it will limit him physically minutes wise, he’s well prepared, he practices with us a lot, he knows his body and he’s capable of playing big minutes, that’s just how Corey is," Shamir says. "I have doubts about how he will feel in the game.
"He still has to be a little bit careful with his hand not to hyperextend it and when he gets into traffic and stuff like that, I’m sure he will protect his left hand so he can give us a lot."
The Auckland club will need more from their two imports who were lacklustre in their first outing.
Patterson who joined from the Brisbane Bullets is a back-to-back ANBL first-team player over the past two seasons and has also been the scoring champion in the Italian and Chinese league in the past.
The 29-year-old managed just 16 points (6/16 field goal, 1/7 three-pointers and seven turnovers) in a messy display after a fortnight of quarantine and a short preparation.
The Breakers second import Colton Iverson doesn't need to do much more to improve on his poor opening display. The experienced 2.13m American failed to make a bucket in just 10 minutes on court while also registering three-quick fouls in an unhappy ANBL debut.
With the addition of Corey Webster, plus an improved display from their two restricted players should go a long way to getting their campaign on track.
Meanwhile, the Breakers fourth-round games have been confirmed by the ANBL. They will back up Sunday’s game in Perth with a second straight outing against the defending champs on Friday, February 5 and complete the round with a Sunday clash in Cairns.
Tip-off for the Breakers clash against the 36ers is 9:30pm (NZ time).