BENDIGO Braves coach Ben Harvey is confident his team has “something special” to return to the top of the South East Australian Basketball League.
Both the Bendigo Braves and the Lady Braves will launch their SEABL seasons tonight against league newcomer Diamond Valley, with plenty of familiar faces joining new ones in Braves colours.
After a hugely disappointing 2017 campaign marred by locker room chemistry issues, Harvey turned to a tried and tested recipe for success, luring former MVP Jeremy Kendle back after he led the team to an elusive championship in 2016.
He also coaxed Chris Hogan and Taylor Bell out of retirement, held on to promising youngster Jake Lloyd and signed import Ray Turner and Illawarra guard Indiana Faithfull.
“I think Turner will be really great, he’s lost six kilograms since he got here and has been fantastic,” Harvey said.
“Jeremy coming back is great and we know what he brings, and Indiana will be a really good point guard.
“I feel this team has something special.”
While Kendle and Turner will be important, the contributions of young guns such as Lloyd and Tanner Rayner and role players Chris Adkins and Daniel Hansen could catapult the team to a championship-level outfit.
“Jake Lloyd is going well, I think he had 12 points, six rebounds and eight assists in one of our practice matches,” Harvey said.
“We’ve got lot of kids coming through and showing signs of being good players.”
The opener is somewhat of a grudge match for Harvey tonight, against his hometown association in Diamond Valley.
He played there as a junior before moving on in the senior ranks and admits there is some pride in seeing the Eagles field their own team.
“They’ll have nothing to lose and should have a big crowd, and it’s a game we are certainly expected to win by most people but we won’t be viewing it that way.”
First-year Lady Braves coach Megan Moody admits there have been moments while watching the Bendigo Lady Braves in the preseason she wishes she was playing.
Moody has also been impressed with the all-important chemistry of the group she has brought together.
“As a coach I didn’t think I’d ever enjoy it as much as playing, but the last few weeks have been really fun. It’s not just one person talking, it’s a collective group all having input and that’s so good to see,” she said.
“When we put team together we hoped to be up there, and you look at the league and its just so strong that you don’t know.
“I couldn’t have asked for any more from them. Their team play, extra effort on defence, and selflessness… They look like they really enjoy playing with each other.”
Former SEABL championship player Gabe Richards is back for her first season with Bendigo since 2009 and Kelly Wilson returns alongside sister Andrea, giving the team a dominant interior threat and an experienced point guard that will match it with any in the league.
Nadeen Payne is coming off a WNBL season in which she won the Bendigo Spirit’s MVP award and teammates Ash Karaitiana, Kara Tessari and Ahlise Hurst join her in Braves colours.