The first piece of the 3X3 Schick Cup puzzle will fall into place this weekend with teams set to select their captain for the coming national event.
Dubbed the 'Captains Weekend', all teams will have from 9am Saturday August 7 to 6pm Sunday August 8 to select a captain from the list of players registered for the Player Drafts, which takes place on Wednesday August 25.
Once signed, the captain will then be responsible for making three selections at the Player Draft to form the team's four players to contest the 3X3 Schick Cup.
The top five teams at the Schick Cup will progress to the Schick Christmas Classic in Auckland.
One curveball for the women's 3X3 teams is an overlap with the Sky Sport Tall Ferns expected to be away at the Asia Cup, meaning they will miss the Schick Cup.
As expected, teams have remained tight-lipped on who they intend to sign as a captain, but let's rub the crystal ball and see if we can successfully line a few potential captains up with teams.
The Breeze have a big decision to make. In a usual year, they'd have a plethora of Tall Ferns to choose from. However, with the Tall Ferns set to be in post Asia Cup quarantine at the time of the Schick Cup they'll have to look elsewhere, or risk taking someone who may not make the final 12. Still, talent emanates from the North Shore of Auckland, and it won't be an easy choice letting some of it go.
Prediction: Ash Kelman-Poto
The Thunder may look for a big name in the form of Jacinta Beckley or Kayla Manuirirangi to lead their team. The Thunder have good young local talent in the likes of Tegan Ngatai and Parris Mason, but may want to go elsewhere for a veteran hand to steady the ship on draft night.
Prediction: Jacinta Beckley
One of two new teams to compete in the NBL 3X3 season, the Storm have potential superstar on their doorstep in Silver Fern Aliyah Dunn. The dual coder could be the perfect figurehead for the beginning of women's NBL basketball in the deep south. Other options are out there of course, in the form of Beckley, Matangiroa Flavell etc, should the Storm want to aim for a Tall Fern like name.
Prediction: Aliyah Dunn
BAY OF PLENTY BLAZE
As easy a prediction as there is, we'd be shocked if BOP stalwart Awatea Leach isn't the Blaze captain. The RGHS product has played for the Rotorua Geysers since they were formed at WBC level, and played for the Blaze at last years Schick Cup.
Prediction: Awatea Leach
The Swish is another team with some decisions to make with the Tall Ferns taking some of their talent. A lot of their younger talent, of which they have so much, hasn't registered yet, so it could make this weekend a tough one for the brains trust in the Capital. Jacinta Beckley and Josie Stockill are big names on their doorstep but could be lured elsewhere for that reason. The Swish will need to lock one of them in.
Prediction: Josie Stockill
Lauryn Hippolite looks like the top choice to lead the Wildcats, but she has been named in the wider Tall Ferns squad, so there is a risk there. There are plenty of other possible candidates with Canterbury's talent pool, including Emma Trolove, Gemma Etheridge, and Brittany Richards. The wildcard is Nicole Gleason. The Christchurch based American could be the pick of the draft if not made a captain.
Prediction: Lauryn Hippolite
The Sparks are back in NBL competition. Like their male counterparts (the Giants), they traditionally look at local Nelson talent, of which there is plenty dotted around the country, such as Lauryn Hippolite and Jelena Vučinić. They could try and convince a big name with experience (eg Josie Stockill, Amanda Wayment or Casyn Buchman) to wear the Sparks uniform then draft locally, or they could go full local. Tough one to pick.
Prediction: Jelena Vučinić
Lots of choices for the Wizards, but it looks almost certain they will go with Kayla Manuirirangi as their captain. You can expect the Wizards to target a number of their younger players in the draft, so Manuirirangi is the standout choice to lead the team given her wealth of experience. She's sure to field a few phone calls from other teams however.
Prediction: Kayla Manuirirangi
OTAGO GOLD RUSH
The Gold Rush are a proudly local team, and we'd be surprised if they went elsewhere for their captain. The big question here is do they take a risk on Zoe Richards being available? The young star is in the Tall Ferns wider training squad, and should she make Guy Molloy's final 12 then she won't be available for the Schick Cup. Other options include Nicole Ruske and Tara Clement.
Prediction: Zoe Richards
Another team with some tough choices. The 2020 Schick Cup champions have a number of players they would be considering, though surely the captain's gig will fall the way of either Casyn Buchman or Amanda Wayment, their two American stars. Similar to the Breeze, a number of other teams will be waiting to see which way this one goes before they pounce.
Prediction: Casyn Buchman