Photo Credit: Photo Sport NZ

The Sky Tower Auckland Huskies say goodbye to Chris Johnson this week as he heads home to Las Vegas on Thursday to compete in the the BIG3 where he will take on a co-captain role with the Ghost Ballers.

Losing the 6’11 centre is a speed bump in the Huskies road to the playoffs and a push for an inaugural championship, although it’s a scenario that Head Coach Aaron Young has been planning for.

“Chris has done everything he can to put us in a position to fight for a playoff spot. Now we adjust and plan for life without him, which is exciting for our guys.

“I knew that Chris would dominate the league with his experience and skill set, but one thing I have really been impressed with is his efficiency. Picking his moments, staying on an even keel and staying in the moment has been areas that have exceeded my expectations.

“Chris has made a special impact on the Huskies organisation across the board. His positive and upbeat approach to the game has been present from day one. Chris has been tremendous at passing on so much game and knowledge to our younger core, and this is evident with the growing confidence of the group as a whole.

“We wish Chris nothing but the best going forward in the next chapter of his career and hope to see him back on New Zealand soil next year, wearing a Huskies uniform again,” Young added.

Johnson will remember his time in Auckland and with the Huskies with fondness. 

“We’ve grown a lot as a club this season and it’s been an absolute pleasure to be a part of something I feel is special.

“There’s been two highlights of this season and I feel both will help everyone on their path forward on and off the court. 

“Adjusting and growth! From the start there’s been adjustments that had to be made from either roster changes or changes of roles. 

“Everyone has adjusted to make this programme work, which leads to growth as a group. 

“Watching these young guys grow game after game and figuring things out from working hard and proving themselves to play or contribute in anyway. 

“But what really stood out to me was this last road trip and seeing Nick (Barrow) filling up water bottles and handing them out to guys while on the bench. I know he wants to play but that says a lot about this group of guys.”

Chris also took time to thank the Huskies staff.

“Aaron is a great coach, his attention to detail is unreal but what stands out about him is his love for the game and patience. 

“To have patience and trust with guys who are 16-19-year old’s speaks volumes on who you are as a person and the work you’re willing to put in with them and it will help with their confidence throughout their different paths. 

“Aaron is only the third coach ever that has allowed and encouraged me to be myself on the court and I appreciate it. 

“Sonny, Matt, Josiah, Carl and Pip are a huge part in it as well, everyone wears multiple hats to make this programme work and it’s great to see.”

Chris, along with his wife Tammy, a kiwi, and their 14 month old twins have had the opportunity to be home and see family after many years on the road in various countries.

The Huskies would like to thank Chris and Tammy for their contribution to the team in the organisation’s first full season. 

Chris has been the ultimate professional. He has played with some players only half his age, with and without other starters at various stages in the season, and has done all of that with an attitude and commitment to help our team be better.

We now find ourselves in a great position heading into the last two rounds, a lot of that is due to Chris.

Chris has been fantastic in our community programme and our fans have embraced him with open arms. We hope it won’t be the last time he pulls on a Huskies jersey.

“My time in Auckland has been amazing. Everyone has been great to my family and I, everything has been professional and the best experience I’ve had internationally hands down!

“My family and I definitely plan on wearing Auckland Husky jerseys next year,” Chris added

The Huskies first challenge without Johnson is this Sunday, July 11th when The Pack returns to Eventfinda Stadium to take on the Steelformer Taranaki Mountainairs. Tip-off is at 5pm. Secure your seats here – https://bit.ly/2SOPlh3