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Melbourne sign Holt and Ibekwe to import spots

Melbourne United has delivered a stunning one-two punch, signing two quality imports, including one NBL championship winner, for the new season. Powerful big man Ekene Ibekwe and versatile guard Stephen Holt have signed with Melbourne for the 2015-16 NBL season, providing a massive roster boost. Ibekwe, who hit the title-winning shot in Game 2 of last season’s grand final for the New Zealand Breakers, will give Melbourne a real presence in the paint and above the rim. Holt, who will continue the strong link between Australia and Saint Mary’s College, will provide backcourt strength with an all-round game that comes with big expectations. “These two guys are just what we wanted for next season,” Melbourne United CEO Vince Crivelli said. “They fit the bill for what we want on and off the court and we can’t wait to see them in action.” Ibekwe’s grand final heroics have earned him a place in NBL history and folklore, adding another layer to a well-travelled and storied career. A graduate of the University of Maryland, Ibekwe has had an extensive pro career, playing in Israel, France, Turkey, Puerto Rico, Iran, Germany and Spain. A member of the Nigeria national team, Ibekwe can also count an appearance at the London Olympics as one of many career achievements. Holt carved out an impressive reputation during his four years at St Mary’s – the school that was also home to Daniel Kickert, Lucas Walker and Patty Mills – and was a teammate of Cleveland Cavaliers and Boomers guard Matthew Dellavedova. An excellent defender with the ability to play both guard spots, 193cm Holt impressed during the recent NBA Summer League with the Atlanta Hawks after spending a season in the D-League with the Cavaliers’ affiliate, Canton Chargers. “Steve is going to bring a lot to Melbourne, both on and off the floor,” Kickert said. “He is an extremely talented guard who is comfortable at multiple positions. “I have been able to compete with and against Steve while training and playing at Saint Mary’s during my off-seasons and have been impressed by how much he has grown as a player and a leader over the years.” That quality was evident during Summer League action in Las Vegas as Holt (13 points) triggered a come-from-behind win over the Golden State Warriors, hitting the tying basket and making a key steal down the stretch. A native of Portland, Oregon, Holt averaged 15.2 ppg as a senior at Saint Mary’s while starting all 34 games en route to All-West Coast Conference selection, a highlight being 29 points while playing all 45 minutes in an overtime win over Pepperdine. After a brief stint in Germany, Holt was invited to preseason camp with the Cavaliers and then signed by the D-League Charge, averaging 10.9 ppg and 3.1 assists over 49 games, 44 of them as a starter. The signings of Holt and Ibekwe now gives Melbourne United nine confirmed players on the roster, joining Nate Tomlinson, Daniel Kickert, David Barlow, Todd Blanchfield, Chris Goulding, Majok Majok and Chris Patton.
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