Basketball: NBA prospect Rayan Rupert returns from injury for NZ Breakers against Perth Wildcats

French prodigy Rayan Rupert has been cleared for a return to the court with NZ Breakers, as they prepare for their grudge match against Perth Wildcats on Wednesday.

Rupert, 18, has been sidelined with a wrist injury since November, but with an NBA career all but assured, has stuck around to help his club battle for a Australian NBL playoff spot. Over nine games, he has averaged 20.4 minutes and 6.2 points, poised to follow RJ Hampton and Ousame Dieng from the Breakers into the bigtime.

"I'm very happy to be playing again with my teammates," said Rupert. "Basketball is my life, so not playing basketball was very hard.

"I think I'm a better player, because I worked very hard."

With a cast on his right hand, the lengthy guard, with a 2.21m wingspan, has worked on developing his lefthand skills, while improving his overall conditioning.

"I'm very much hoping Rayan comes back a better player, but we're not putting that kind of pressure on him," said Breakers coach Mody Maor.

"He needs to come back and play his role, which is to defend, compete, play extremely hard, and it there's mistakes that come from rust or sitting on the sidelines for a long time, that's OK too.

"The staff did great work making gains in other areas, but it's not a magic trick."

The Breakers currently sit second on the competition table with an 11-6 record, behind defending champions Sydney Kings, but their grip on that spot has loosened with a bout of COVID and three consecutive losses over the Christmas-New Year period.

Rayan Rupert in action for the Breakers
Rayan Rupert in action for the Breakers. Photo credit: Photosport

The first of those came at home against Perth, after the club's social media department needlessly antagonised former Breakers guard Corey Webster, who responded with a 26-point matchwinning performance.

Breakers v Wildcats was already a compelling rivalry, dating back to the Auckland club's championship era of 2011-15, but now it's personal, with Webster's younger brother Tai joining him at Perth for this week's encounter.

Like his sibling, Tai Webster was a development player at the Breakers and returned to the club three years ago, but was released, when he refused the COVID vaccination required to play ANBL games in Melbourne during the pandemic.

Perth have had to buy out Tai Webster's rights from the Breakers, who will also welcome centre Robert Loe back for their New Plymouth home game.