21 Dec 2023

Breakers hoping Christmas presents them with healthy roster

2:32 pm on 21 December 2023
Zylan Cheatham of the Breakers.

Zylan Cheatham of the Breakers. Photo: Alan Lee / www.photosport.nz

At the top of the Breakers' Christmas wish list is a request for a healthy roster for the remainder of the Australian NBL season.

Will McDowell-White (fibula) and Zylan Cheatham (foot) - the latest players to be sitting out injured - are getting closer to being back on court but just how many minutes the duo will play over the coming games remains to be seen.

Ask coach Mody Maor and he says the pair will be on "heavily restricted" minutes if they do play on Friday against the defending champion Sydney Kings in Auckland.

"We don't force people to play and we want them to play when they feel 100 percent ready," Maor says.

Ask McDowell-White and he says he's a month ahead of schedule for his return and is ready to play against the Kings.

Ask Cheatham and he says he's not worried about the healing foot but how the rest of his body will hold up to the physicality of playing competitive basketball after a significant break.

The Breakers are coming of their biggest win of the season - a 29 point win over Cairns Taipans - but the club is yet to win back-to-back games this season.

Sitting on five wins from 14 games the Breakers need to keep winning to keep in touch with the teams who make it into the playoffs.

While Maor is looking forward to getting a fully fit roster to choose from he says Cheatham and McDowell-White are "not here to save anything".

"They are good basketball players who have been out for a significant amount of time I think their role within the team and the things they each uniquely do is very clear to anybody who watches us play but they're going to need to fit in into how we do things and they're going to need to get into basketball shape."

A stint on the sidelines saw Cheatham step up as a leader, a role the American power forward says comes naturally.

"I feel like I have a lot of knowledge to offer the game so my guys do a really good job of keeping me involved."

Cheatham was also using his time off the court to learn more about a league he joined for the first time this year after stints in the G-League in America and the Basketball Bundesliga in Germany.

He only played four games for the Breakers this season before getting injured. It is the first time he has been injured during a season.

"I've always been a film guy but since I've been hurt I've watched pretty much more film than I ever have in my life just getting a feel for the league , getting a feel for the refs, other teams and their systems and stuff like that and I've been in constant contact with our coaches doing scouting reports it's been pretty beneficial to me I'd say."

When Cheatham does return to court he doesn't expect he'll instantly have the same impact he did when he scored 30 points, 5 rebounds , 4 assists, a block and a steal against Melbourne United in October.

"I was coming off a career-high so it's kind of hard to say but I think it's going to be a process I don't think I'll hit the ground running and play at that level but my goal is just to try to get as close as possible that and then eventually supersede that."

Will McDowell-White of the Breakers

Will McDowell-White of the Breakers against the Kings last season. Photo: AAP / www.photosport.nz

McDowell-White can see himself slotting back into roster with ease.

"[I'll] be the organiser make sure everybody is on the same page and be intense on defence and we'll go from there."

Maor is adamant the Breakers' season is not off track despite sitting in ninth in the 10 team competition.

"We're going through the process that we need to go through the circumstances haven't been what we wanted them to have been from day one and this is part of the challenges this team is facing.

"We do feel very positive about how we're playing. We've felt this way for a while now it's been a few weeks where we felt that we're doing things the right way on both sides of the court it didn't really show in the results for different reasons.

"Cairns was an accumulation of a lot of stuff that happened together so regardless if it's on track or off track there is definitely a positive vibe around the feeling with the group and them getting a better understanding of how they need to play together and it showed in the game and now we need to do it again."

McDowell-White agrees the playing group has been getting along regardless of the results but that hasn't stopped them hashing out what needs to be said behind closed doors.

"We got together as a playing group over a couple of days and really sorted some things out that we needed to get done."

Maor isn't one to open Christmas presents early but the Breakers fans will be hoping for some extra cheer in the form of another win a few days before the stockings are unwrapped.