NBL 2018-19: Mika Vukona has faith in Brisbane Bullets resurgency
PRIZED recruit Mika Vukona has only had one hitout for the Brisbane Bullets but already sees great promise in some of his fellow signings as the club begins in earnest its climb back to the top.
GREG DAVISThe Courier-MailAugust 15, 20185:32pm
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MIKA Vukona has seen it all in the NBL.
And the five-time championship winner already likes the look of Brisbane ahead of the 2018-19 season.
The 36-year-old made his first appearance in Bullets colours last weekend in a pre-season hitout against the University of Hawaii and quickly showed why he will be a prize recruit.
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Tall Blacks captain Vukona, along with Boomers trio Jason Cadee, Cam Gliddon and Matt Hodgson, were signed by the two-time wooden spooners in the off-season while Rio Olympian and former Chicago Bull Cam Bairstow was also welcomed back into the Bullets fold.
Bairstow (knee) and Gliddon (back) missed the match-up with the Rainbow Warriors, while the Bullets also have an import vacancy to fill on their roster.
Vukona had six points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal against Hawaii. He did a host of intangible things that did not show up on the stat sheet, but the most revealing number was his plus-minus total of 23.
In other words, when he was on the court, Brisbane were significantly better.
He is regarded as one of the NBL’s ultimate team men or “glue guys” for a reason.
The strong performances of young big men Will Magnay and Tyrell Harrison were also telling, with Vukona’s experience, fundamentals, toughness and high standards on and off the court expected to rub off on the twin towers.
“I’m loving everything about this club right now. I’m really happy to be here with this group of guys who want to work hard and get better,’’ Vukona said.
“It’s nice to come in to a team where everybody is a ‘glue guy’. Everybody puts the team first.
“It’s only early in the pre-season and we are sorting out the nuts and bolts stuff now but it is exciting knowing we’ve got three guys (Bairstow, Gliddon and an import) to come in.
“Our ultimate goal is to get that championship, so the thing for us is to use our depth and create waves and keep that momentum going no matter who is on the floor.’’
The Bullets have a stack of guards on their roster, so how their big men perform will be critical.
Magnay and Harrison are the future of the club and will provide valuable back-up to Vukona, Hodgson and Bairstow.
“It was awesome to watch those young guys play. They came in and protected the paint really well. I’ll be salivating watching these guys play because they have so much length, work hard and are eager to learn and get better,’’ Vukona said
Three of Vukona’s five NBL titles came in the hat-trick with the New Zealand Breakers from 2011-13, when the Bullets brains trust of coach Andrej Lemanis, CEO Richard Clarke and assistant coach/basketball operations boss CJ Bruton were with the Auckland-based outfit.
“It’s nice to be back working with those guys and hopefully we can enjoy some success together again,’’ he said.
Originally published as Vukona expects Bullets’ rebound to stick