21/02/2024

Dean Vickerman speaking to Shea Ili during Wednesday's practice. (Image: Melbourne United/X)

Melbourne United coach Dean Vickerman and his coaching staff have taken responsibility after a lackadaisical defensive performance against the Cairns Taipans.

Going into the round as the league’s number one ranked defence, United’s disciplined defence looked all at sea against an exuberant Taipans outfit giving up 31 first-quarter points, with point guard Patrick Miller leading the way with a season-high 32 points and 10 assists.

After a week of soul searching, there is positive news for the league leaders, with sixth-man Ian Clark nearing a return from a hamstring injury sustained in the overtime loss to the Perth Wildcats on November 6.

United welcome the Brisbane Bullets into John Cain Arena this Sunday, which Vickerman said will be an imposing challenge for big men Jo Lual-Acuil Jr and Ariel Hukporti on the glass up against their three-headed monster of Aron Baynes, Tyrell Harrison, and Next Star Rocco Zikarsky.

“And then there’s going to be those – the three-headed monster of the centres that they continue to throw at you. And if you let up on any one of those, they’re going to score in the post. They’re going to rebound at a high level,” Vickerman said.

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The second matchup will be another homecoming for former United assistant, Justin Schueller, who spent five and a half years at the club, starting as a development coach.

Schueller, in his first season as Bullets coach has transformed the team from a poor defensive team into one of the top defences, which has seen the team in NBL24 concede less than 80 points on six occasions.

Vickerman had nothing but praise for one of his former top assistants.

“Anytime you get to coach, against a really quality coach that you know you’ve been with for a period of time and you know they’re going to prepare their team really well,” Vickerman said.

“I think you know that makes it better when we’re going against someone that’s scouted us in everything that we do. So, you know can we counter it and can we be better.”

On Wednesday morning, Adelaide 36ers coach CJ Bruton and the club mutually parted ways after a disappointing 4-9 start, finishing his two-and-a-half-year tenure with a 27-40 record.

Vickerman said it is sad to see a quality person of his calibre let go, describing him as an “amazing person” with the pair having been together at the New Zealand Breakers – Bruton as a player and Vickerman as an assistant.

“I thought they made a bit of a run when they brought DJ (Dejan Vasiljevic) in and were starting to get it together and obviously had a tough road trip,” Vickerman said.

“But the opportunity to have him still be in the league and still coached that team. I know they could have turned it around. So, you know disappointed.

“It happens in our league and I’m sure there’ll be another great opportunity for him because he’s a great basketball person and a great basketball brain.”

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