After careful consideration, former Saint Louis forward Brian Conklin chose to continue his basketball career by signing with the Southland Sharks in the New Zealand National Basketball League.
Now, he just needs to get there. He'll need it. Luckily with an April 19 start date, he'll have plenty of time. Conklin told BillikenReport.com that his flight to New Zealand will leave at 10:15 p.m. (PT), and he won't arrive in Invercargill until 2 p.m. local time on Wednesday.
"The first thing I'm going to do is get film from the head coach," he said. "There are only nine teams in the league and it's a four-month season."
Paul Henare, the Sharks' head coach, coached current Billikens' player Rob Loe and thus the connection was made.
Henare played with the New Zealand Breakers, and Conklin is just eager to get going with his new team, coach, and environment.
"I'm going a couple weeks early to get familiar with the situations, get some good workouts under my belt," he said. "I haven't looked at all the rosters, but I don't know anybody on the ones I've seen."
The timing is a bit difficult for Conklin, who hopes to be able to watch his beloved Billikens as they make a march towards the postseason. After all, he'll have just seven channels to choose from on TV.
Before departing for New Zealand, he's taken some time to stay in contact with his "Billiken Family".
"I already talked to Paul [Eckerle] in the airport," he said. "I was texting Kyle [Cassity] when the Billikens got the conference title. I texted Cody [Ellis], Kwamain [Mitchell], and Cory [Remekun] before their senior day game. . .And obviously I've talked to Rob about last minute things to get ready for New Zealand."
The abbreviated four-month season will allow Conklin to show what he's made of in the hopes of earning a contract in Europe or Australia, which play 9-month seasons starting in August.
In preparation for the move, he's been putting in daily work to refine various parts of his game.
"I've worked on stretching my range past the three-point line," he said. "Creating my own shot, being able to face up to the post. . .I've cut some weight. I'm the most athletic I've ever been."
SLU strength and conditioning coach Eric Schork has sent him lists of activities to do, and he's even trained with Olympic athletes in Eugene, Ore. to get ready for the rigors of professional basketball.
"I'm just trying to show teams what they missed out on," he said. "My agent is going to be trying to find me something else while I'm there. . .It's almost like college. You don't know anybody. You talk to the coaches and maybe some players. You just have to go to the open gyms and try to find your own way.
If his college career was any indication, Conklin is sure to succeed down under in the NBL.