Melbourne United has further bolstered its backcourt for NBL season 2019/20 with the exciting addition of New Zealand national team point guard Shea Ili.
After spending the first five years of his career with the New Zealand Breakers, the NBL’s Most Improved Player in 2018 will join Melbourne United on a two-year deal.
The 26-year-old guard, who was coached by United head coach Dean Vickerman for two seasons from 2014-16 and then United assistant Paul Henare for two seasons from 2016-18, is a constant fixture in the New Zealand national team – which is also coached by Henare – and helped the Tall Blacks claim bronze at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Ili has also played alongside other Melbourne United players such Shawn Long, Alex Pledger and Tohi Smith-Milner.
Having played a key role in New Zealand qualifying for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Ili was recently announced to the Tall Blacks extended squad for the upcoming World Cup in China.
Ili averaged 7.8 points, 2.8 assists and 2.4 rebounds over 27 games for the Breakers in the 2018/19 NBL season and his stifling defence on some of the best points guards in the league was eye-catching.
Coach Dean Vickerman spoke about the signing and highlighted Ili’s ability to defend.
“Obviously with being a starting point guard in the league over the last couple of years he’s gone through the ups and downs of being a local starter and going against the best imports in the league at that position,” he said.
“I think he’s an absolutely elite full-court defender and certainly in the half-court as well he has the ability to bust through screens.”
Joining superstar import Melo Trimble, along with Australian Boomers’ Chris Goulding and Mitch McCarron in the backcourt, Vickerman will have plenty of options at his disposal to run the offence as United looks to go one better in season 2019/20.
Melbourne United have one open local roster spot, and one open import roster spot remaining for the upcoming season.