United mak­ing great progress

Geelong Advertiser - - SPORT - MELISSA WOODS

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.

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