Derek Rucker believes the Brisbane Bullets need to inject Rocco Zikarsky into the game earlier.

26 Dec
By Dan Woods for

Bullets legend and former NBL MVP Derek Rucker has called on Justin Schueller to inject Rocco Zikarsky into games earlier, as Brisbane aims to stop its slide out of the top six.

Tight losses to Adelaide and Cairns have seen the Bullets fall out of the Play-In positions and drop behind the Taipans on the ladder, but the three straight defeats are not a death knell for Brisbane's post-season hopes. It sits just one spot outside the top six.

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Next Star Zikarsky provided an immense spark for the Bullets as they fought back from over 20 points down against the Taipans, before they ultimately suffered a heart-breaking one-point loss.

“I’m going to say it again, get the big fella, get the young fella, get the Next Star out there early and see if he can impact the game,” Rucker said on NBL Now.

“Instead of waiting until the game is getting out of hand and you have to throw caution into the wind and see if he (Schueller) can make some change and make some plays to change the energy, put him out there a little bit earlier and see if he can have an impact in building a lead, as opposed to trying to reduce a deficit.

“It’s a big game (against New Zealand on Wednesday), I think they’re expecting another bumper sell-out crowd. It’s going to be another fantastic game and like all the games in this holiday period, you just can’t miss them. It’s must-watch viewing.”

New Zealand’s Zylan Cheatham could make his long-awaited return to the court against the Bullets. He has suited up for the Breakers’ last two games, but has failed to hit the court in either of them.

Cheatham was an early-MVP front-runner, before a foot injury derailed his season, but his impending return alongside the fit-again Will McDowell-White has left the Breakers will almost all of their stars.

Rucker says the approach to playing the Breakers has changed now New Zealand has not only got key players back from injury, but also starting to rekindle its form.

“Two weeks ago it was like ‘we’ve got New Zealand coming up here, we’ve got a bunny’, things have totally changed now,” Rucker continued.

“New Zealand will have their three best players on the floor if Zylan Cheatham plays ... if they go with ‘PJC’, Anthony Lamb and Cheatham.

“That leads me to believe that team is going to win most of the time.”

Brisbane and New Zealand tip off at 7:30pm AEDT.

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