North-West Thunder regain Mason Bragg and sign import Samajae-Haynes-Jones for 2020 NBL1 season

After a season away trying his hand in the New Zealand NBL, point guard Mason Bragg will suit up for the Thunder again.

With the pair locked away, Thunder coach Sam Armstrong couldn’t hide his excitement at what their potential could be as he looks to progress the team into the finals following a 14th-place finish in 2019.

“I think our guard line is going to be one of the quickest and most athletic in the league which is exciting for us,” Armstrong said.

“Combined with some good players in the front court, it’s going to give us a chance to compete week in and week out.”

Bragg returns for his third stint at the Thunder following his foray with the now-defunct Southern Huskies.

At 26 years of age and a host of experience under his belt in various leagues, including with the Perth Wildcats in 2017, Armstrong believes Bragg is about to hit his peak as a basketballer.

“I think the best is yet to come with Mason,” Armstrong said.

“He’s starting to come into the prime of his career, but it’s more the mental side of the game and all the experiences he’s had that we’re going to benefit from next season.

“He’s still a high-level athlete and you anchor a lot of things both offensively and defensively around him.

“He plays a really important position on the floor and with all due respect to the group we had last year, we probably lacked a bit of experience in that area.

“To gain someone back with his experience, knowledge and familiarity with our program is huge for us and he also plays a brand of basketball that makes him a drawcard for people to come and watch.”

Haynes-Jones will arrive in Tasmania with after two seasons of college basketball at a Wichita State team that combined for a win-loss record of 47-23 in that time.

His senior year saw him average 11.9 points per game, which was second-highest for the team, and he helped lead the Shockers to three post-season wins and a trip to the NIT semi-finals in New York.

“Samajae’s a winner who comes from winning programs,” Armstrong said.

“He’s got a multi-faceted skill-set which includes being able to score baskets a lot of different ways.

“We’re very lucky to attract a player who comes from such a high-level college program such as Wichita State.

“He finished college and had some G-League tryouts in the US which didn’t work out, and I think the timing was right for us when we reached out to him because he did have some offers in Europe, but he decided to come down here.

“This will be his first professional contract and we’re sure he will be able to fill an important position for us in 2020.”

With his starting guard positions filled and plenty of local options at the power forward and centre positions, Armstrong is now weighing up his options as to how best complete his playing roster.

“We’ve definitely got one, maybe two positions to fill – I think we’re probably another scorer away – but at the same time we’ve been able to lay some important foundations over the last few weeks and our team is starting to take shape,” he said.

“We can sit back now and analyse what we need and who is available, whether it be an import or an Australian guy.”

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