By SAMUEL DARROCH
THE recently rebranded Melbourne United has begun its new era true to its name, taking in Traralgon and greater Victoria as part of its pre-season.
The National Basketball League franchise visited the Latrobe Valley for three days, culminating in a practice match against Townsville Crocodiles on Saturday night in Traralgon which it won 99-71.
Coach Chris Anstey, a former coach of Latrobe City Energy star Jordan Canovan, said Gippsland was a region bursting with talent and well worth exploring.
“I got to know the area a little bit when I came up to see him (Canovan), and I’ve coached against Latrobe at BigV level,” he said.
“We’re well aware of kids like (Traralgon’s) Jack White, there’s a really good group of young basketball players coming through.
“No matter where they’re from, especially Victoria, we’ll find them, we’re aware of some down here and again it’s a good opportunity to explore some areas, it’s good fun.
“We have played pre-season games here in the past when I was with the Tigers so it’s not an unfamiliar place to be.”
Formerly the Tigers, Melbourne changed its name to United this year.
Anstey said the new name came with a fresh philosophy to be a better representative of the entire state as its only NBL side.
“Especially with the rebranding of the group, it’s great to just continue to involve any Victorian basketball association with what we’re doing, try to develop relationships, try to give people a broader understanding of who we are and that we’re a team that represents all of Victorian basketball,” he said.
“We want every Victorian basketball family and junior player to know that whatever club they’re at or whatever association they’re a part of there’s an equal opportunity to have a professional career or support a professional club, whatever level they’re at.”
United held an open training session in Traralgon on Thursday afternoon, before attending community matches on Friday across the Valley, followed by a ‘coach the coach session’.
Still in the early throngs of pre-season, Anstey said it was a good opportunity for team bonding as the club looks to put a strong year together.
“You get a little bit stale being at home as well, so it’s nice to get on the road for a couple of days, for the boys to spend some time together and continue our pre-season training,” Anstey said.
United recently signed Philadelphia 76ers NBA draft pick Jordan McRae as its second import in a major coup for the reformed club.
The Valley visit followed another regional trip to Ballarat.