Hungry Jack's NBL
Melbourne United star Chris Goulding believes the addition of genuine championship experience could propel last year’s minor premiers to the 2016/17 NBL title. And he’s not the only one. With a focus on taking the next step, Melbourne’s coaching staff and management have been assembling a new-look roster that includes some of the biggest names in Australian basketball. Headlining that list are Australian Boomers power forward David Andersen and 2014 NBL MVP Cedric Jackson; two guys who have spent much of their careers collecting titles. “We were disappointed with how we finished last season,” Goulding told nbl.com.au this week. “But I think the staff have identified the areas we were lacking and gone about trying to improve them. “Championship experience was one of those areas and to add Dave and Cedric, who are proven winners, is a massive lift to our basketball club.” Jackson, of course, won NBL titles with the New Zealand Breakers in 2012, 2013 and 2015. He also has two Larry Sengstock Medals and an Andrew Gaze Medal in the cupboard. Having watched him operate beside Breakers wings Corey Webster and Thomas Abercrombie these past few seasons, Melbourne CEO Vince Crivelli is excited about teaming the superstar point guard with United’s own perimeter threats. “Cedric is a genuine point guard in the traditional sense… [He] knows how to get his teammates going and knows how to get them good looks,” Crivelli said. “I think he compliments Chris and Todd (Blanchfield) very well; he's a pass first point guard, he's a defensive point guard and he’s a competitor.” The fit with Goulding, in particular, is an important one. If it works, Melbourne will be incredibly tough in the backcourt. Andersen, meanwhile, possesses a trophy cabinet that is its own kind of magnificent. Inside you’ll find eleven championship trophies from some of the best leagues in Europe; three from the Euroleague, three from Italy, three from Russia, one from Spain and one from France. The man is the Bill Russell of European hoops. “He’s an absolute champion,” Crivelli said about Andersen. “Dave hasn't been a second line player in Europe, he's played in the best teams in the world and has won championships in those teams, playing vital roles. “He's got a lot to offer on the court but also by way of educating our younger guys around how to be a pro and what it's all about.” Melbourne have also lured 2015 NBL champion Tai Wesley (New Zealand Breakers) across the ditch and re-signed three-time NBL champion David Barlow, who will return to the active roster after sitting out the entire ‘15/16 season with a troublesome Achilles injury. After such a long time on the sidelines, Barlow is predictably excited to be back. “I’m super pumped,” Barlow told nbl.com.au this week. “It’s been a long time. The body feels great.” Having achieved success in the regular season last year, Crivelli and the coaching staff were – for the most part – keen to get the band back together for another tilt at the title. But when the iron’s hot, it’s usually best to strike. “We weren't really looking to make wholesale changes,” Crivelli said while scouting imports at the NBA Summer League. “We weren't that far off last year… it's just that at the end of the season, when we really needed that extra push, we were probably a player short. “The way it's worked out we've made more changes than we thought but we're pretty happy with the guys we've brought in.” The final pieces to Melbourne’s puzzle will come in the form of two more imports. In that space, Crivelli and the coaching staff know exactly what they’re looking for. “Another combo guard and another big guy who can support Majok, Dave Anderson and Tai Wesley,” Crivelli said. One thing’s for sure, there’ll be no compromising on character when it comes to recruiting these finishing parts. “We've learnt a lot through a couple of seasons of experience,” Crivelli said. “I have a whole heap of faith in Dean (Demopoulos) and his coaching staff and the leaders of the team that the culture of the group overrides any of the individuals within it. But, yeah, we try to bring in guys that will buy into what we're doing.” What they’re doing is making a genuine run at the title. And with an injection of championship experience suddenly headlining the roster, that’s a culture worth buying into.