Matthew Dellavedova and Chris Goulding. (Image: Melbourne United Twitter).

Matthew Dellavedova and Chris Goulding. (Image: Melbourne United Twitter).

Melbourne United’s off to a flyer, downing rival South East Melbourne Phoenix 82-67 to kickstart NBL24.

The Inner Sanctum has ranked each player’s game below.


Starting 5

Matthew Dellavedova – Guard #8

Rating: 8

After a very strong NBL Blitz campaign, ‘Delly’ picked up where he left off in the season opener.

He burst out of the gates with 12 first quarter points, hurting the Phoenix from beyond the arc and finding the lane in the paint.

All of Dellavedova’s points came in the first half, but he was a massive factor when the game was on the line early.

Looks set to have another big season and be a leader on both offensive and defence, as Melbourne United search for their first championship since the 2020/21 season.

He finished with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes of floor time.

Ariel Hukporti – Centre #15

Rating: 6

The exciting German recruit showed some fantastic signs in his first official match back from a ruptured Achilles tendon, that saw him sidelined from basketball for a long period of time.

The 21-year-old athletic beast looked like he would tear that game apart at stages, with his huge leap and defensive prowess, a feature of his game.

Despite looking a little rusty and nervous throughout, Hukporti warmed into the game to have a massive impact on the defensive end.

The centre provides a point of different for Dean Vickerman’s side and will only get better as his confidence begins to grow.

He finished the game with five points, 14 rebounds and three blocks from only 20 minutes.

Luke Travers – Guard #23

Rating: 9

A highly anticipated recruit for United, Travers will spend this NBL season honing his craft in the attempt of having a major impact for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA.

After a relatively subdued start, Travers found voice and range as a key scoring option and playmaker when Dellavedova went off the boil.

Every time Phoenix pushed hard to cut the lead; it was Travers who produced a big play to hold them at bay.

In a night where not many players shot well from either side, the former Perth Wildcat was a point of different, shooting 47% from the field and a respectable 33% from the arc.

Travers finished the game with 20 points and seven rebounds to be a gamebreaker, starting his season in style.

Chris Goulding (C) – Guard #43

Rating: 5

Boasting a remarkable CV that sees Goulding as United’s all-time leader in points, three, assists, steals and games played, the champion was below his best on Thursday night.

In 31 minutes of game time, Goulding went just 25% from the field on 3/12 shooting. He also struggled from beyond the arc, making one from seven shots.

Despite a limited offensive impact, Goulding still managed to produce some moments of brilliance with fast thinking assists and his leadership is always a valuable addition to the side.

Shea Ili – Guard #51

Rating: 5

Despite struggling offensively making just one off seven shots from the field, Ili was at his defensive best, taking charges off the Phoenix big men and working through tough screens.

It looks as though Ili will again form a dynamic partnership with Dellavedova in the front court and create an impenetrable defence for opposition guards to get through.

A workman like performance, the New Zealander scored eight points, along with five rebounds, drew six fouls and went 12 in +/- ratings. Will be a valuable contributor as the season wears on.


Rob Loe – Centre #2

Rating: 7

The 174 game NBL veteran provided invaluable assistance off the bench.

The former Cairns Taipan and New Zealand Breaker played a solid game from the outset, using his experience against the younger Phoenix centres of Tyler Cook and Craig Moller.

Loe was rock solid defensively, whilst providing some handy points and impact on the scoreboard.

He scored nine points, with five rebounds and statistically, was his sides most accurate shooter. He also finished with 20 in the +/- ratings.

Flynn Cameron – Guard #11

Rating: 5

Fresh off a successful World Cup campaign with the New Zealand national side, Cameron showed signs of his potential and class throughout the evening.

While only scoring three points, he provided both Dellavedova and Shea Ili with good chop-outs, allowing them to somewhat manage their minutes. Look for him to only improve as the season goes on, with Cameron still just 23 years of age.

Tanner Krebs – Forward #13

Rating: 6

The former Brisbane Bullets shooter started slowly and looked a bit apprehensive in his first official outing for his new side.

His shots weren’t dropping early, before hitting back-to-back three pointers to get himself going.

Krebs is athletic and fast, being one of his teams few out and out forwards on the night.

He finished the night with eight points and four rebounds from his 18 minutes of game time. He looks to be another very capable player off the bench for Dean Vickerman’s side.

Kyle Bowen – Forward #14

Rating: 5

In his first game for United, Bowen looked capable at the level.

Having previously played four years for St Mary’s University in California, Bowen has more experience than his 22 years suggest.

While not having a massive impact from the numbers, Bowen didn’t look out of place at all at the level.

He finished the game with three points and four rebounds from only eight minutes of game time.

Looks as though he will get more minutes throughout the season, as Dean Vickerman gains trust in his big forward.

Zac Triplett, Campbell Blogg, Malith Machar, Brad Newley either come onto court in the last minute or didn’t play, albeit being part of the match day team. All four players will be great depth players throughout the season 2023/24.


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Starting 5

Will Cummings – Guard #3

Rating: 5

Cummings was one of the very few shining lights, in an otherwise disappointing night for the Phoenix.

From early on in the ball game, he showed a strong intent to attack the basket and will his side into the contest.

A very crafty and skilful player, Cummings will be crucial to his side’s chances of a successful season.

Although he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, he still finished with a serviceable 14 points and three assists from 28 minutes of game time.

Tyler Cook – Forward #5

Rating: 6

Named as an injury replacement player only weeks ago, Cooks brings a wealth of basketball experience, including several stints in the NBA.

A powerful presence on the floor, Cooks started the game well and despite drifting in and out of the game, he can hold his head up high.

Like Cummings, he unfortunately didn’t shoot very well, but was not alone on the night. He battled manfully to finish the ball game with 12 points and seven rebounds from his 28 minutes.

Will be a valuable player this season if the Phoenix are to feature heavily.

Ben Ayre – Guard #10

Rating: 8

Without doubt the Phoenix’s best player, Ayre showed qualities of why the team was so eager to play him early in the season.

With injury to crucial player Gary Browne, Ayre got the opportunity to be in the starting five and did not disappoint.

From the outset, he looked to be the driver of play and a source of optimism and energy for his team as they attempted to claw back a lead throughout large parts of the night.

Ayre finished the game with 17 points, on 6/10 shooting from the field and also knocked down both three-point attempts. He looks to be one to have a big season this year.

Craig Moller – Forward #33

Rating: 6

Coming back from a long-term knee injury, Moller showed positive signs on his return to basketball.

The former AFL footballer was coming off a great stint for Wurzburg Basketball in Germany before sustaining the injury.

He understandably looked a bit underdone and rusty at times early in the contest, but still was able to have an impact, nonetheless.

He was able to put up nine points and seven rebounds in an encouraging performance. He will look to build match fitness in the upcoming weeks.

Mitch Creek (C) – Forward #55

Rating: 4

The inspirational captain was unfortunately far below his best of Thursday night.

Coming off a very limited pre-season on the back of injury, Creek struggled to find his consistent form of previous years when his side needed him.

I can’t be too critical given his limited trainings and match play leading up to the opener, but Mike Kelly and his coaching staff will be hoping to get a fit and firing Mitch Creek back very soon.

He finished the game with six points and nine rebounds.

An 100% fit Creek adds a completely different dynamic to this squad, and we are all looking forward to what he can do in coming weeks and months.


Matt Kenyon – Guard #2

Rating: 2

Kenyon played good minutes off the bench but had very little impact on the contest.

He only managed to put up the one shot in his 16 minutes of play.

Although he offered some assistance on the glass with five rebounds, he never really attacked the basket and struggled to be a playmaker with just the one assist.

He averaged similar minutes in his previous two seasons with the Tasmanian Jack Jumpers but expect more out of this guard as the season goes on.

Look for him to be a serviceable playmaker who gets other involved in offensive and hustles of defence.

Reuben Te Rangi – Guard #7

Rating: 4

After coming off a solid World Cup tournament for New Zealand, there was high intrigue about what Te Rangi could produce in the season opener.

Unfortunately, like many of his teammates, Te Rangi was considerably below his best in terms of output.

Despite Melbourne United producing strong defence consistently, Te Rangi was one of many who couldn’t knock down shots on the night.

He took a total of eight shots, for just one make and despite trying hard, he struggled to impact in any part of the game.

He will be a better player for the run and has the potential to be a valuable off the bench player, or even potential starter for this team.

Rhys Vague – Forward #25

Rating: 4

Vague was one of the more interesting stories to come out of the night.

After previously playing important roles for the Boomers in several FIBA Asia Cups, Vague managed just the eight minutes on Thursday night.

Seen by many as a valuable player off the bench for the Phoenix, the forward put up just one shot and secured only one rebound.

A bleak box score for Rhys on the night, I’ve been somewhat lenient with the rating given the lack of opportunity he had to impact the floor.

Owen Foxwell – Guard #30

Rating: 4

A young developing player, Foxwell has been a part of the side in the previous two seasons, with limited opportunities, at only 20 years of age, he looks like an exciting talent in future years.

He managed eight minutes and was able to drain a three to the applause of his family in the crowd.

Foxwell will no doubt benefit from these experiences, as he looks to fight his way to more minutes and opportunities in his third year as part of the franchise.

Anzac Rissetto, Austin Rapp, Kody Strattman weren’t on court for long enough to fairly judge their performances or have any impact. As bench players, they will look to gain more minutes on the floor as the season progresses.

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