Melbourne United confident role players can cover for injured stars Chris Goulding and Shea Ili
Melbourne United confident role players can cover for injured stars Chris Goulding and Shea Ili

United needs soldiers to stand up in injured stars’ void

When one man goes down, another man gets his chance.

Or, in Melbourne United's case, two men down, with the club set to test the mettle of its reserves in the coming weeks.

Coach Dean Vickerman has revealed defensive guard Shea Ili will miss at least three weeks of basketball as the club sweats on scans on a calf injury to talisman Chris Goulding.

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It's not ideal, but it is something Melbourne United - more than any other NBL club - is equipped to deal with, thanks to its depth.

"One of the biggest strengths of our team is our depth - when one man goes down or comes out of the game, we're not losing anything at all when the next guy comes in," rookie stud Jack White said Sunday after United's tight 75-71 victory over arch rival Perth.

"Even when you know we have these unfortunate injuries that stack up with the schedule that we're starting to have now, it's great to see guys are ready and able to come in and contribute and step up."

Hope springs eternal for Vickerman and United and the coach says it presents a golden opportunity for struggling import Scotty Hopson to put his stamp on the team.

He's almost urged Hopson, who hasn't been himself since crossing from New Zealand to Melbourne in the off-season.

"We might need a little bit more from him (Hopson) over these coming weeks with those extra couple of guys out, but I'm more into the leadership that we are going to need from him and the way that he carries the ball, the way he can set the table for other people and then pick his moments to score," Vickerman said.

"We have a rotation captain policy. He was our captain for the game (against Perth) and he embraced the opportunity to captain the team and we're going to need really good leadership from him and Mitch McCarron to make sure this team functions the way we want it to over the next month, so I think it's a great opportunity for Hop to grab right now."

Ili went down injured last Friday against Brisbane, while Goulding exited the clash with Perth before three-quarter-time and could not come back.

"It was a great challenge for the guys in Brisbane when Shea went down for the whole game pretty much and then to close out the second half without Chris (against Perth), really pleasing again," Vickerman said.

"Sam McDaniel, Yudai Baba, Sam Short ... there's so many roles to adjust.

"We've got to find a way that's simple for those guys to be really effective in playmaking roles.

"It's a great challenge for our team and a great challenge as a coach."

United faces The Hawks Wednesday and then Cairns Taipans Saturday before entering the Melbourne bubble with all eight other teams for the NBL Cup event.




Originally published as United needs soldiers to stand up in injured stars' void