Dean Vickerman might have already coached Melbourne United to two NBL championships, yet he believes his side are as connected as ever under his tutelage.
Vickerman has taken Melbourne United to the promise land in both 2018 and 2021 coaching some remarkable players. However, he said his current roster not only has the talent, but is the best-connected team he’s come across in all his years in basketball.
“When I talk about this team to others, we talk about the connection of the group is as high as it’s ever been with any group that I’ve coached,” he said.
“This team can do a lot of those things when we demand it from them. It’s like ‘coach, what do you want from us? Do you want us to play faster? Play more controlled?’ They’re great with being able to defend different styles of play.”
Among United’s greater strengths this season is its on court depth, helping carry the team over the line on multiple occasions this season. Decimated by injury early in the season, it allowed the likes of Tanner Krebs, Flynn Cameron and Ariel Hukporti to play more minutes.
Vickerman said the buy in from his bench players enabled the coach to be cautious when bringing players back.
“You never want injuries. You never want illness, but it’s a part of our sport. We were happy that the people that got to play extra minutes throughout the season were able to get us wins,” he said.
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“The buy in from the whole group to continue to play the way that we want to play, the acceptance of our culture. We brought guys back a little slower this year as well. People came back from injury, came off the bench, worked their way back into it, got back to that starting role.
“That was a great reward for guys that had done their job when people were out. So hopefully that builds leadership, that builds growth and if those opportunities arise again, we’ll have great confidence in those guys to step up.”
It’s hard to remember a team within recent years with such depth in their squad and connectedness on the floor. There are shades of the Perth Wildcats 2014-2017 squad about this United side, with a great combination of offensive and defensive threats.
United’s best win/loss season record came in 2021 winning 28 of their 36 games. This season they have won 19 of their 26 games, with their consistency throughout the year being quite impressive.
They are yet to lose two consecutive games, bouncing back from tough losses to continue to string wins together and maintain a stranglehold on top spot. On Sunday afternoon, Melbourne United went one step closer in etching top spot, defeating the New Zealand Breakers.
With two matches remaining, they will look to beat Cairns for the first time in NBL24 this Friday, before rounding out the regular season at home on Sunday against the Illawarra Hawks.