NBL: Mika Vukona stars for Brisbane Bullets in pre-season trial
AMID the significant amount of pre-season rust that engulfed Brisbane’s win over the University of Hawaii, the Bullets saw a small sliver of gold that will be priceless come the 2018-19 NBL season.
GREG DAVISThe Courier-MailAugust 11, 20189:14pm
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AMID the significant amount of pre-season rust that engulfed Brisbane’s 73-54 win over the University of Hawaii on Saturday, the Bullets saw a small sliver of gold that will be priceless come the 2018-19 NBL season.
Five-time NBL champion Mika Vukona was recruited by Brisbane in the off-season to be the “glue guy”. The player that does what is required, when it is required.
The 36-year-old brought a physical and vocal presence in defence, rebounding grunt, crunching screens, clever passing and plenty of one percenters that did not show up on the stat sheet from the pre-season hitout at the Anglican Church Grammar School.
The Tall Blacks captain has reported to Bullets pre-season training for the first year of a two season deal in great shape.
The power forward was like an on-court coach as he barked instructions at both ends of the floor. His knowledge of the systems run by Bullets coach Andrej Lemanis from their successful time together in New Zealand means the playbook is already second nature.
Whenever he was on the floor, Brisbane pulled away from the US college side. He finished with six points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal and a team-high plus-minus of 23.
His vast experience will help Brisbane’s contingent of big men with young centre Will Magnay producing three blocks in the first quarter alone.
Lemanis said given the Bullets started pre-season training a week ago, he was happy with the performance.
“Normally we don’t play a game this early but it was good to find out a few things about this group. We want to pride ourselves on being a defensive team this year and that’s what we’ve been working on,’’ he said.
Lemanis said Vukona delivered what he expected.
“Mika is a special player. That’s why we were so pleased to get him here. He adds so much to the group,’’ he said.
“When you talk about a guy that makes a team better on and off the court, that’s Mika.’’
Tyrell Harrison also had some good moments in his 12 points with a powerful dunk to finish an alley-oop the highlight for the seven-footer.
Boomers guard Jason Cadee had 12 points in his first game in Brisbane colours. Boomers centre Matt Hodgson finished with eight rebounds and 11 points while import Stephen Holt and swingman Reuben Te Rangi also added 11 points apiece for the Bullets.
It looked every bit a pre-season game with both sides struggling at the offensive end.
The teams put up enough bricks in the first half to build a small retirement village with Brisbane taking a slender 24-20 lead into halftime.
Brisbane hit nine shots from 27 attempts from the field while the Rainbow Warrior had eight successful shots from a whopping 30 shots.
The teams finally found their range after halftime and some extra feeling crept into the clash with Brisbane leading 49-42 at three-quarter time.
Originally published as ‘Special’ Bullet fires in first outing