THE BIGGEST name in Australian basketball right now will play in Ballarat next month.
NBA championship player and Olympian Andrew Bogut will continue his transition back to Australia’s elite competition via much-hyped pre-season tournament NBL Blitz.
In a big show of faith, from the NBL and state government, Ballarat will host finals for the four-day tournament at the Minerdome next month while construction is unfolding for a new 3000-seat showcourt arena in Ballarat Sports and Events Centre.
Ballarat will co-host the tournament with Bendigo, where teams will play the first two days’ hit-outs at the newly redeveloped Bendigo Stadium with a 4000-seat showcourt.
Basketball Ballarat chief executive officer Peter Eddy said securing Blitz play-off matches was a big endorsement for the new stadium and what this would offer western Victoria.
Mr Eddy said the event showed Ballarat was “bouncing back” as a major events host. Such events had been dropping away when funding for the $24 million BSEC works were in limbo.
“It is pleasing that the sports peak bodies have recognised the work done to achieve the new BSEC facility and have rewarded Ballarat with hosting rights for such a prestigious event,” Mr Eddy said.
“This will be the start of an exciting sports events future for the region as planning is underway to attract multi-day national and state level programs from across Australia to the BSEC.”
NBL club Melbourne United made the Minerdome its base for three pre-season camps, but club’s chief executive officer Vince Crivelli flagged in 2016 the venue no longer met modern standards for elite team preparations. United has remained a strong supporter for the BSEC project.
Sam Short was a youngster in the Minerdome stands when a newly-launched United first played in Ballarat. He was now in his second season with the club and hoped to inspire more Ballarat juniors in the game.
You get to see how professional they are, these are your idols growing up, and you’re seeing them in your hometown. You get their autographs after the game and see they are real people.Sam Short
“It’s amazing to have NBL back in regional Victoria, Bendigo and Ballarat,” Short said.
Short was in Bendigo on Thursday night for an NBL practice match against Bogut and the Kings. He said the new Bendigo Stadium put into perspective what BSEC could offer – including potential for a FIBA World Cup qualifier like Bendigo will host next month.
All eight NBL teams will be in Blitz action with Ballarat to host eight games in four double-headers across two days, September 22 and 23.
The Blitz will lead into the next round of NBL x NBA games in the United States starting on September 28.
NBL unveiled its Blitz plans ahead of a Melbourne United and Sydney Kings (featuring Bogut) pre-season friendly at Bendigo Stadium on Thursday night.
Matches will be live-streamed on NBL TV.
DAY THREE SCHEDULE at Minerdome
11am: New Zealand Breakers v Cairns Taipans
1pm: Brisbane Bullets v Sydney Kings
3.30: Adelaide 36ers v Perth Wildcats
5.30: Melbourne United v Illawarra Hawks