21/02/2024

Dean Vickerman (Image: NBL.com.au)

Despite the Tasmania JackJumpers losing six of their last eight games, Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman is bracing for Scott Roth’s men to come out blazing.

The ladder-leaders sit three games clear ahead of the second-placed Perth Wildcats, coming off a narrow victory against the New Zealand Breakers and embarking on their fifth game of seven away from John Cain Arena against the JackJumpers tonight at MyState Bank Arena.

Vickerman is particularly focused on nullifying the dynamic backcourt influence of Jordon Crawford and Milton Doyle.

“Obviously their two guards when they’re scoring, and they’re up and about, and shooting the three-ball,” he said.

“How can we get connected to them and hopefully drive them down to Ariel (Hukporti) and make them take tough shots in the paint if we can. More probably about the disruption up the floor then the pressure they put on you to get started in our offence.

“Do you attack that straightaway or do you let the basketball move? I think those are some of the decisions that our guards will have to make.”

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The United coach has declared that defensive ace Shea Ili (mild concussion) and former Sixth Man of the Year winner Jo Lual-Acuil Jr (personal reasons) will both be absent tonight, after the duo also missed last Friday’s win against the Breakers.

Ahead of tonight’s match, the two teams have spilt their two meetings this season. The JackJumpers prevailed 80-75 on October 8 at John Cain Arena, behind a furious-fourth quarter comeback and Milton Doyle’s 25 points.

On October 27, United won on the JackJumpers’ home floor 90-82 behind Ian Clark, Luke Travers, Jo Lual-Acuil Jr and Kyle Bowen, with Chris Goulding having his equal-lowest production of the season after scoring only seven points on 1 of 9 shooting.

An ongoing topic of conversation this week in the lead-up to round 16 has been about concussion protocols and whether the league should increase the concussion-rule policy from six days to a mandatory standard period.

It comes after Perth Wildcats’ forward Kristian Doolittle suffered a head knock last week against the South East Melbourne Phoenix, staying in the game for another nine minutes before exiting.

When asked about the policy, Vickerman said there have been far too many concussion incidents over the years and precautions in-game need to be taken seriously.

The NBL will also celebrate Pride Round, one that is close with Vickerman. He formerly coached Isaac Humphries, who is now with the Adelaide 36ers and openly came out as gay in November of 2022.

“Obviously for me, it’s all about my experience with Isaac and seeing him get comfortable enough to present his case and for other kids who are struggling with that, to understand that we do celebrate it as a sport and for them not to be fearful, and for basketball to be a safe space,” Vickerman said.

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