Coll full of praise for U23 squad
Connor Coll is a very proud coach as he reflects on the Southland under-23 Men’s tournament campaign this past week in Auckland.
“Looking back at it I think everyone played to the best of their ability and everyone gave everything they had for me which is to be expected with the men we had, but I’m just so proud of every single one of them for what we achieved,” Coll said.
Southland ended its campaign on Saturday with another gutsy performances, going down to near neighbours Otago by 92-89 in the playoff for seventh and eighth place.
“Looking back, we were in most of our games and the only team that really gave us a decent beat-down was the champion (Taranaki beat Southland 109-82 on Wednesday), so when you look back I see a lot of proud moments, a couple of nail-biters and for me I was just so proud of the fight against Hawke’s Bay (in the quarter-final), and I don’t have the words for it.”
“They came in thinking we would be that Southland team that they could easily push-over and we were not even close to that. We gave them a good run and I loved our never-give-up attitude. Every time out the boys were engaged, and they were wanting to win and to go out there and prove themselves. The competitive nature of this team was unreal,” Coll said.
“From there the Northland game came down to a Hail Mary pass and we got a couple of tips to it but unfortunately sometimes the bounce of the basketball does not go your way and it went theirs and they hit a big shot to tie it up (sending the game to overtime) and rode that to take the win in OT, but the boys left it all out there. That one hurt badly.”
“Tournaments like this, you can’t dwell on it, you’ve got to focus on the next one which we did, and we came out against Otago and we got down and lit that fire again and bought it back to a couple of shots and we had a shot to tie it on the buzzer but sometimes those ones don’t go in,” he said.
Coll had praise for every member of his squad and highlighted Tom Cowie’s effort in being named in the tournament team.
“Tom played outstanding all week. He shot the ball so well all tournament but defensively he came up against some tough guards and gave as good as he got. I’m really proud of how he stepped up as a leader, talking and lifting the other guys up and playing unselfishly. He averaged pretty much 30 a game but he wasn’t afraid to give it up to get other guys going. He was the motor that kept us going all week.”
“Riley (Snow) as a 17 year old was going up against guys that have played in the NBL. He rebounded the ball well and was a big presence in the pick ‘n’ roll, diving to the hoop hard and making sure the defence had to play him smart.”
“Jayson (Collett) really found his feet through the tournament and he took the opportunities when he was open and grew in confidence throughout the week.”
“Dylan (Tamati-Pennecott) was just Dylan. Rock solid. Great under the hoop and was one of out key rebounders so having him on the floor was key to getting defensive stops.”
Brendon (Douglas) from Queenstown did what we needed him to do. He made good shots, made lay-ups, made good decisions and rebounded the basketball which is what our bigs did a helluva job at, even through they were under-sized.”
“Campbell (Scott) put up 20 a game for us but was another experienced tournament player for us, coming off the pick n roll and doing his thing. And Ethan (Mitchell) just shot the lights out. Teams scouted him and denied him, and he created that much attention for himself that they couldn’t afford to help off him otherwise that thing was going up and more times than not it was going in. He had a helluva tournament as well.”
“Quake (Webster) just wasn’t quite ready to go with his hip injury so it was disappointing for us both not to see him get out there and have a crack. And it was a great experience for Mitchell (Robinson) to be around this level and learn off guys like Tom and Campbell. It will be great for his development as he comes up through the Under 17 and 19 ranks,” Coll said.
Having coached at lower age groups previously Coll was particularly impressed with how his young side handled the step up in age bracket.
“I’ve got the chance to work with a few of these guys through Under-19s and to see their growth from 19s to Under-23s is great to see. It’s quite a jump up because once you get to 23s you are up against fully grown men so the physicality and the pace of it is a lot faster so to see our guys adjust to that level was great,” he said.