Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman has seen plenty of star imports come to the NBL, and many more who were described as world-beaters but didn’t match the hype.
“I saw Matt Walsh came out and said he will be the best player to ever hit our shores so yeah, he has really good pedigree and played well for their director of basketball Dan Shamir,” Vickerman told The Age from New Zealand on Wednesday night.
“It’s a replacement for Scotty Hopson and someone a little bit similar, so position-wise it’s not a major issue for us other than he’s a high-level talent.
“With the first game of an import coming in, we’ve all seen it go different ways.
“Does he try to be part of a system or does he just use his talents, score a bunch and see how that works out? I’m not sure how it will go.”
Injuries, international interruptions and coaching departures have seen faces come and go from the United line-up since pre-season training began, but they will finally have their full roster available.
Star import Casey Prather returns from knee surgery and will make his season debut, but will be on a short leash and shouldn’t appear for more than 18 minutes.
Melbourne will square their season record at 4-4 should they beat the Breakers, and after winning three of their past four games, Vickerman is pushing his players to maintain their form.
“We spoke to the group about what we thought Casey’s role would be and how everyone else can’t take a backwards step because he’s back with us,” Vickerman said.
“They have to keep doing the things they are doing and Casey will fit in.”
New Zealand lost to Melbourne in Melbourne two weeks ago, but Vickerman sees plenty of challenges from the Breakers side with import big man Brandon Ashley and shooting guard Corey Webster both putting up big numbers, especially from pick and roll plays.
“Ashley is elite as a short roll decision-maker, especially with Corey,” Vickerman said.
“You can be really aggressive with Corey and he has found Ashley really well in those short rolls then he can take it off the bounce or make good passes. We have to try and prevent those passes and make the ball go other places.”
Melbourne United play New Zealand Breakers at Spark Arena, Auckland on Thursday at 5.30pm AEDT.
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.