Jeremy Kendle and Nadeen Payne. Photo: ANDREW PERRYMAN

THE Bendigo Braves and Lady Braves are counting down the days to the start of the 2018 South Eastern Australia Basketball League competition, with high hopes for success.

Braves coach Ben Harvey has assembled a talented squad with the return of 2016 sensation Jeremy Kendle to the playing roster one of the highlights ahead of the opening game against the Diamond Valley on Friday,
April 6.

Kendle was a key player in the Braves journey to a SEABL title in 2016, and won the league MVP as well as being judged MVP in the historic grand final victory.

Kendle stepped up to the NBL, joining the Brisbane Bullets in late 2016 before signing with the Sydney Kings as an injury replacement in October 2017, and the talented guard was also a member of the NBL All-Australian team that competed against the Chinese national team in a three game series last July, scoring a game high 20 points in the final game.

Kendle this week said he had been lured back to Bendigo by Harvey and the other people he grew to love so much during his time here in 2016.

“We had a great group back in 2016, and obviously a few players aren’t here now, but coach Harvey has done a great job of bringing new guys in that fit the system and to add to the culture,” he said.

Reflecting on his time away from Bendigo, the popular import said he continued to learn from all his experiences, both on and off the court.

“Every place you go you learn a little bit about people and about yourself and about the game. I think that anywhere you go and every situation you’re in – good or bad, you can be a sponge and you can learn. I never want to stop learning,” he said.

He said the hospitality and warm welcome he received from Bendigo, and especially from Harvey and his family had helped sway him back to the city.

“The Harveys have been awesome to me, and now are awesome to my wife and I,” he said.

We just love the family, they are beautiful people and being around the kids and being able to help them out in any way possible on the court and off the court has been a blessing for me, and that was one of the big reasons I came back.”

Returning WNBL star Nadeen Payne said she was looked forward to the 2018 SEABL season with the Bendigo Lady Braves, and the prospect of playing on a brand new state of the art court in the very near future.

“I think you can expect an exciting brand of basketball. We are a very fast athletic team,” she said.

Megan (Moody) has had us running into the ground at training, so we have a really good brand and we are led by Kelly WIlson, and she plays a really exciting game of basketball too.”

Payne said the prospect of playing home games on a brand new, state of the art court before large crowds in the very near future was one of the reasons she chose to stay in Bendigo after the WNBL season.

“I think the direction that Bendigo Stadium is going is awesome and why not be a part of it? It will be great for the community to be able to hold heaps of events there, to have our game sin there, and hopefully Bendigo sees that and supports it and comes out,” she said.

The Champions IGA Lady Braves and the Bendigo Bank Braves play their first matches of the 2018 SEABL season against Diamond Valley on Friday, April 6.

The first home games for both teams, will be against Hobart on Saturday, April 21.

– Peter Kennedy