Support crucial in NBL challenge



THE Plantation Hotel Challenge National Basketball League series in Coffs Harbour this weekend carries extra pressure on local basketball fans.

The NBL are seriously looking at Coffs Harbour's Sportz Central to host the 2006 pre season competition, the NBL Blitz.

That would mean all 11 NBL teams playing in Coffs Harbour for four to five days.

The Plantation Hotel will be hosting three NBL teams The West Sydney Razorbacks, Brisbane Bullets and the Newcastle Pirates.

West Sydney Razorbacks will be special guests of the Coffs Harbour Basketball Association for the opening ceremony of the McDonald's primary School Basketball at Sportz Central today.

Billed by coach Mark Watkins, as 'the new Leroy Loggins', Jermaine Blackburn is the new import for the West Sydney Razorbacks.

Blackburn was verging on an NBA spot with the Seattle Supersonics and it was while he was trialling for them at a recent summer camp in Salt Lake City that Watkins got his first look at the left-handed small forward.

"One of my main reasons for going to the US was to check out Jermaine Blackburn," Watkins said.

"The research on him was very impressive and he had a good season at Boise State University."

"Seeing Jermaine trial for the Supersonics really confirmed what we had been told about him.

"He's a very good defender and scorer and he's a smart player.

"He reminds me quite a bit of Leroy Loggins, physically, and the way he plays both ends of the floor."

An Olympian, the legendary Leroy Loggins played for 18 years in the NBL winning three MVP's in the 1980s while on 10 occasions he cracked a place in the All-NBL first teams between 1982-94.

Watkins said that the NBA door was still open for 23-year-old Blackburn.

At 11am the Newcastle Hunter Pirates will be host a coaching clinic for the Koori children who attend local high schools.

The Pirates have offered to help with the clinic which will also include a session with the NBL top referee Scotty Butler who is of Aboriginal descent.

Scotty will talk of his rise to the top of the NBL as a referee and will also referee the game at 3pm and on Sunday.

Then at 3pm the Plantation Hotel presents the West Sydney Razorbacks against the Brisbane Bullets.

The offer to all supporters is to go and have dinner with the players at a cost of only $6.

On Sunday morning from 11am the West Sydney Razorbacks will take on the Newcastle Hunter Pirates in another Plantation Hotel Challenge match.

Tickets are on sale only at Sportz Central and the cost will be $15 seats (centre grandstand), Saturday $10 seats (all other seats), Saturday $15 seats (centre grandstand), Sunday $10 seats (all other seats).



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