Hungry Jack's NBL
Izayah Le'Afa Returns Home to NZ
The New Zealand Breakers have signed guard Izayah Le'Afa on a two-year deal, with the Tall Blacks representative returning home after two seasons with the South East Melbourne Phoenix.
The former Breakers' Development Player averaged 8.9 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 28 minutes a game, with a career-high 29 points in just 28 minutes (including eight three-pointers) coming in his rookie year.
That particular Phoenix team reached the Finals with the 25-year-old playing alongside Yanni Wetzell, who has since springboarded to the EuroLeague following a season with the Breakers.
"I asked Yanni many questions before signing, and he said going to the Breakers would be a great career move for me," said Le'Afa.
"Yanni was particularly positive about how his game transformed under Mody (Maor), and that advice was a key factor in my decision."
When Maor was appointed Head Coach, there was skepticism he could deliver on his vision of a strong kiwi core at the Breakers.
However, in the month since the Israeli's appointment, he has confirmed six kiwis in his 12-man roster, with Le'afa motivated to come home because of that commitment to New Zealand players.
"We promised we would hit the ground running with our attempts to rebuild our roster, and kiwi players have responded," said Maor
"Izayah's tenacity and toughness epitomises the type of basketball I want the Breakers to play and the type of New Zealand basketball culture we want to embody."
Maor has now filled nine roster spots, with Le'afa joining Tom Abercrombie, Rob Loe, Sam Timmins, Tom Vodanovich, Dan Fotu, Will McDowell-White, Cam Gliddon, and Next Star Rayan Rupert.
Imports will fill the remaining three spots.
Le'afa, who became the second-youngest Tall Black when selected for the national team as a 16-year-old, is the son of Kiwi NZNBL player George Le'afa and has previously played for the Wellington Saints.
"I loved playing for the Phoenix because they had a few kiwis there but going back to New Zealand is the right move for me," he said.
"Being a New Zealander, being a kiwi is everything to me. I don't know if words can really explain it, but it's a feeling you have.
"It is going to be a surreal moment when I put on that Breakers jersey."