Despite comparisons to Aussie basketball legend Chris Goulding and a close friendship with NBA sensation Josh Giddey, Zac Triplett is doing it his own way with Melbourne United this year.
A solid junior career and some time in America playing college ball saw Triplett snag a roster spot with United for 2021/22.
He has since put in the work behind the scenes with the the NBL side, making himself a vital cog in the team’s title defence.
Despite playing plenty of games in Victoria for Keilor Thunder, it took until Triplett was on the verge of heading to America for United to consider acquiring him.
“I was training with United before I actually left for college, I was with them a couple times a week to help with training,” Triplett said.
“When I got back from my first year of college, I asked Dean Vickerman and assistant Justin Schueller if I could come in and work out with the guys.”
“It turned out that Dean asked if I was keen on staying, and then obviously, that went from there.”
Having received limited opportunity while playing for the Portland Pilots in the NCAA’s West Coast Division 1 Conference, exposure to international level quality in his hometown was something the young guard always wanted.
Starting with a love for the old Melbourne Tigers, playing for United was always on the periphery of Triplett’s goals.
“It was always Melbourne United for me,” he said.
“Growing up watching the Melbourne Tigers back in the day with my good mate Josh Giddey, it’s been really good to be able to stay home in Melbourne and actually represent Melbourne United.”
So far it’s been a rewarding season for Triplett. Although his court time has been limited, Triplett has started a valuable education under the likes of Chris Barlow, Matthew Dellavedova and Chris Goulding, and the latter has taken on a direct responsibility to mentor him in the small forward/ shooting guard role.
With only nine minutes of NBL court time to his name, the off-court processes have become key to Triplett’s development as a shooter.
Training with Goulding, who “has a similar play style” to what Triplett is eyeing off with United in the future, has helped the young Melbournian to realise what is “going to better the team in the long run.”
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“He (Goulding) is obviously a pain for other guys to guard, and I say that as in training he always finds a way to get a shot off,” Triplett said.
“We’re pretty close – I’m trying to model my game around him at the moment in terms of training behind him and everything else.”
Although it hasn’t paid off in the NBL, it has rewarded Triplett in other ways, with the 20-year-old named in an extended 17-man Boomers squad in February ahead of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers in Japan.
A Melbourne United debut and a Boomers squad selection in the one season is enough to make Triplett confident of what lies ahead.
Throughout all of this, Triplett has also been following good mate Josh Giddey as he continues to make NBA history for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
With his fellow Keilor teammate in contention for the prestigious NBA Rookie of the Year award, Triplett has used Giddey’s strong start in the world’s biggest basketball league as motivation for his own career.
“We’ve been mates since we were younger, having come up against each other throughout our juniors,” Triplett said.
“He is a super hard worker and super competitive and is doing really well, hopefully I can do the same thing, whether it be in four years’ time or longer.”
“Hopefully I get an opportunity to play at that level – that’s the ultimate goal.”
While eyeing off the NBA, Triplett also wants to build upon his Boomers pre-emptive selection.
“It would be a massive feat for me to represent my country,” he said.
“If I can get there and play at the highest possible level I can, then I’ll be looking to represent my country and play in the NBA moving forward in the next five to 10 years.”
A play-off series for the reigning premiers would cap off a remarkable season for Triplett, with his development front of mind throughout the campaign.
If he can get a chance on the court to impact the big games, the young guard will be ready to make massive plays.
“I’m going to develop my game and get better,” he said.
“We’re a tight group that’s super competitive and wants to win, that’s our goal. We’re going to do everything we can to get that.”
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