Vikings ready to hit court in 2009
GRAFTON Vikings coach Craig Howe believes he has the team in 2009 to win an elusive NSW State Basketball League title.
The Vikings finished third in 2008 - their fourth straight play-off appearance - and second in 2007, and will begin their 2009 campaign on Saturday with a home game against Lismore.
Howe said the Vikings had lost just two players from last year's squad - key playmaker Dylan Parbery, who has moved to Lismore for university studies, and veteran Dan Boorman.
However, Boorman has not ruled out playing when required, Howe said.
Howe is excited about the squad's new recruits - guard Dirk Miller and small forward Jamie Hagan.
Hagan still resides at Maroochydore on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, but has committed to the Vikings in 2009 and will travel for training and games.
The Vikings will again have the services of two-time State League MVP and point-scoring machine Shaun Murphy.
Veteran guard Steve Smith, who was considering a comeback in 2009 after a hiatus from the sport, informed Vikings officials on Monday night he would not be taking the court this season.
Howe said a two-day training camp held in stifling conditions in Grafton last weekend had allowed the squad to put the finishing touches to their preparations for Saturday's season opener.
“The camp was fantastic, we really needed it,” Howe said.
“Murphy still hadn't met Hagan. We spent eight hours in the gym on Saturday and got things sorted out.”
Howe said he was expecting Lismore to provide his squad with a difficult first-up assignment.
“Lismore will probably be our toughest game,” Howe said.
“They look the team to beat.”
The Vikings women also trained on Sunday and appear to have a side capable of returning to finals action.
They will also take the court against Lismore on Saturday in the curtain-raiser to the men's game.