Taipans impress in visit lead-up

Former Miners captain Shaun Bruce is making a big pre-season with Cairns Taipans. Picture: Getty Images
Nanjing Night Net

NBL pre-season gameMelbourne United v Cairnsat MinerdomeSaturday, 7pmCAIRNSTaipans will take impressive form into a National Basketball League pre-season game against Melbourne United in Ballarat on Saturday night.

The Taipans are coming off a clean sweep of a two-game series with Illawarra Hawks.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the match-up at the Minerdome will be the appearance of journeyman and Cairns high profile recruitMark Worthington against his former team.

Worthington was a United co-captain last season and its most valuable player award winner.He initially left Melbourne with a view tocontinue his career in Europe, but within a few months the Olympian had signed a two-year deal with Cairns.Worthington had his first outings in Taipans orange against Illawarra at the weekend, as did another major signing Markel Starks, who hails.from Maryland in the United States.

The Taipans visit will provide a homecoming for former Ballarat Miners Shaun Bruce and Ash Constable. Bruce has had a strong pre-season – he was starting point guard in Cairns’ first tussle with the Hawks.

Melbourne United has alsohad a big build-up for the 2015-16 NBL season, with the Ballarat visit following a trip to China and two games againstLouisiana State University.United will be close to full strength for Saturday night, withAustralian Boomer Chris Goulding back.NateTomlinson and David Barlow are the only players expected to missowing to injury. This will be United’s first hit-out this pre-season against an NBL rival.

Newly arrived American import Stephen Holt, who joined team this month, said the roster had been competing and gelling well at practice under new United coachDean Demopoulos, a former NBA assistant coach.

“(Dean) is definitely trying and challenging us every day and the culture of the club, how we carry ourselves on and off the court,” Holt said. “Dean’s done a great job putting our offence together and Saturday against the Taipans is a good opportunity to test that.”

Miner and New Zealand international Everard Bartlett had a chance to shoot around with United at training on Thursday.​United is in town for a community camp, thesecond year ina row, ina partnership with Basketball Ballarat.Cairns arrives in Ballarat on Friday with head coach Aaron Fearne to lead a coaches’ clinic.

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