Japanese import Yudai Baba is finding his feet at Melbourne United.
Baba, 25, played just his 22nd NBL game in Monday night’s victory over the Brisbane Bullets.
The win was United’s seventh on the trot, sitting comfortably in first place.
Baba has found it easy to settle in to his new side, surrounded by a winning culture.
“Definitely, this atmosphere affected my play,” he said post-win.
“As I always say, the team and the coaches, everybody is so kind to me and everybody makes me comfortable. I’m so comfortable and I’m so happy to be a part of this team.”
Baba was crucial in the third quarter, nailing two important three pointers amidst a Bullets charge.
Forever humble, he credits his play to the directions of coach Dean Vickerman.
“In the half-time, coach said ‘you have to be aggressive in your shooting,’ so I wanted to be aggressive in the second half,” Baba said.
“I’m so glad to make a shot, and about defence, I feel like I contribute to the team on my defence… and execute my job.”
Baba would end the game with 16 points, going 3/5 from three pointers, two rebounds and an assist.
This was his second highest points in a single game, shooting 17 at a FG% of 75 against the Taipans in February.
Impressively, Baba came close to his scoring record with three less minutes on court.
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Vickerman spoke highly of Baba, placing him as one of the game’s best performers.
“I thought Baba and Sammy Mac [Sam McDaniel] were just huge for us tonight in the way that they defended and then both be able to score 15, 16 points each at key moments.” he said.
“Both of them stepped in the roles that were vacated tonight, took those minutes and grabbed them.
“Jock [Landale] was super aggressive tonight, we needed him to get that number of shots. I think that might be the first time he’s had 19 shots in a game this year, so really pleasing to see him come out so aggressive.”
Alongside his teammates in McDaniel and Dillon Smith (replacing the injured Scotty Hopson), Baba was one who had to step up.
While Vickerman is frustrated by his side’s injury woes, you don’t win seven straight for nothing. He believes the whole side has dug in and played their part over the past month.
“I’d like to coach the same team two nights in a row,” he said.
“Every game recently has just been a different line up and the preparation has been at shootaround ‘who’s suiting up tonight?’ That’s been an absolute challenge, I love the way the team has responded.
“Doesn’t matter who we suit up, we’re going to turn up and play defence. Some nights we’re going to make shots more than other nights but tonight was a good all-round performance.
“We’re looking at it to say we’ve played the half year as the cut-off point.
“We’re trying to, if we can, beat our record for the first half of the year and that’s how we’re approaching it.”
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