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On guard . . . Mark Dickel runs a coaching session during his tenure with Basketball Otago. PHOTO: ODT FILES

One of New Zealand’s greatest basketballers is bringing a taste of top-level hoops to Oamaru.

Former Tall Blacks star Mark Dickel is bringing his Canterbury Rams NBL team to the town for a training camp next weekend.

But wait, there’s more.

The Rams will play a game against the Southland Sharks at the Waitaki Community Recreation Centre at 7.30pm on Saturday, March 4.

Dickel’s squad, which will stay at the Waitaki Boys’ High School hostel over the weekend, was originally just seeking a fresh base for a training camp.

The possibility of a game emerged when North Otago basketball identity Brian de Geest realised the Southland Sharks were scheduled to be in Dunedin for a pre-season game against Otago on the Sunday.

He contacted Sharks boss Jill Bolger to extend the invitation to come to Oamaru for a run against the Rams.

“It’s awesome,” de Geest said.

“We’re going to see a very, very high level of basketball.

“Canterbury won the regular season last year, and Southland have recently been champions. And the good thing is all their top players should be here – Alex Pledger, Reuben Te Rangi, all those guys.”

The Sharks have their own high-profile coach: former Tall Blacks guard and New Zealand Breakers assistant Judd Flavell.

De Geest hopes plenty of North Otago people will make the most of a rare opportunity to see elite basketball in Oamaru.

“I think we will be able to pack out the Rec Centre. I think we can get 400 or 500, and we’ll provide a really intimate and loud venue if we do that.”

There will be a curtain-raiser between Waitaki Boys’ and Otago Boys’ junior teams.

It is set to be a big year for keen basketball fans in North Otago. The Rams-Sharks game will be followed by a top-level women’s game between the Otago Gold Rush and the Canterbury Wildcats on Sunday, April 23.