Kouat Noi. PICTURE: STEWART MCLEAN.
Kouat Noi. PICTURE: STEWART MCLEAN.

Taipans rookie almost ready to return

THE ongoing saga that is Kouat Noi's ankle injury appears all but certain to end this Saturday.

The impressive Taipans rookie forward had appeared certain to return from his ankle bone bruising, suffered against SEM Phoenix in the middle of December, for the past fortnight, before being held out at the last minute.

The 22-year-old, who declared himself the certain NBL Rookie of the Year in the pre-season, has completed much of the Snakes' training load over the past fortnight, as well as taking part in extra running sessions with club staff.

Since Noi went down and Serbian sniper Mirko Djeric has been elevated to the starting five, the Taipans have gone a remarkable 8-1, swatting away any suggestions about the club's lack of depth.

"I hope so," Taipans coach Mike Kelly said when asked if Noi would return on Saturday night away at Adelaide.

"He trained well last week and came up a little bit sore.

"We want him to be right to go and hopefully that can be this weekend."

CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 18: Kouat Noi of the Taipans warms up before the start of the round 16 NBL match between the Cairns Taipans and the Adelaide 36ers at the Cairns Convention Centre on January 18, 2020 in Cairns, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 18: Kouat Noi of the Taipans warms up before the start of the round 16 NBL match between the Cairns Taipans and the Adelaide 36ers at the Cairns Convention Centre on January 18, 2020 in Cairns, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

With three games to play before the finals, Noi's return will be key to help build chemistry after not playing for more than six weeks.

Kelly last month flagged the likelihood of Noi returning from the bench and Djeric staying in the starting line-up when the rookie does get back to full fitness.

In scrimmages on Tuesday at training, Noi was with the reserves.

Meanwhile, the son of an NBL legend has been training with the Snakes.

Rupert Sapwell with wife Cyndi and son Koen in 2002.
Rupert Sapwell with wife Cyndi and son Koen in 2002.

Koen Sapwell, a comb-guard out of US college Cal State Monterey Bay, is the son of three-time Adelaide 36ers title winner Rupert Sapwell.

The elder Sapwell was a renowned "glue guy" who helped teams gel during his 360-game NBL career and was president of the league's players association before coaching Norwood to two SA titles.

"He has just got back from college in the United States and he has been working out with us," Kelly said of Koen.

"He is doing a great job."



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