United making great progress
MELBOURNE United star Casey Prather warns his new NBL team has made great strides since its last clash with his former side, the Perth Wildcats.
Melbourne (5-4) sits one spot behind second-placed Perth (5-3) and heads into another showdown at Hisense Arena on Sunday.
When Melbourne met the defending champion in round three last month in Perth, the the Wildcats triumphed 89-84, with commentators suggesting it could be a preview of the finals series.
Since then the impressive NZ Breakers (8-1) have gone clear on top, beating Perth in home and away thrillers in the past week, and Perth has lost its influential big man Matt Knight, retired due to concussion issues. Melbourne has split its results in the six games since but Prather feels it is a much better team now.
“I’ve seen tremendous growth since last time we played them,” Prather, who won two titles with Perth before heading to Melbourne in the off-season, said.
“We’re moving in a great direction with the team.
“We dropped a couple (of games) early but they were pretty useful for us to better ourselves for the future.”
The clash between two super-athletic imports, Prather and Perth’s new excitement machine Jean-Pierre Tokoto, is a certain highlight, even if Prather insisted lining up against his old team doesn’t hold special significance.
“They’re a great team and they’re going to bring their all so we have to do the same,” he said.
Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman said his team was ready for the Wildcats to try to unsettle its attack.
“It all starts with the best defensive player in the league in Damien Martin in disrupting things up the floor and they’re a physical defensive team,” Vickerman said.
Meanwhile Vickerman gave the thumbs up to news AFL sides are considering expanding into the NBL and was impressed when he saw that model working at FC Barcelona.
“You see the basketball team onsite, the football team, handball team — it’s an outstanding way to put a sporting club together under the one roof and you can share costs and administration and staff.
“Basketball could only gain from having that.”
RIGHT DIRECTION: Melbourne United star Casey Prather.