Melton import Ivan Harris scored 25 points to guide his side to an opening-round win against Mildura in Big V basketball.
Harris had five rebounds and two steals in his Melton debut to help the Thoroughbreds secure their 79-72 division 1 victory.
The 30-year-old comes to Melton extremely well credentialled, having previously been selected as an All American in high school basketball.
After a four-year stint representing US college Ohio State, he went on to play in the NBA’s development league with Cleveland, Atlanta, Dallas and Oklahoma.
This is the power forward’s second stint playing in Australia; he played for Ballarat in the SEALB in 2011.
Prior to his Big V debut, Harris said he was looking forward to playing with Melton.
“I am really excited to be coming back to play in Australia,” he said.
“I’m very delighted to play with a good group of guys and a supportive organisation. We have what it takes to be strong contenders in division one.”
Harris’s individual performance was strong on Saturday night, but first-year Melton coach Julie McCallum said it was the American’s impact on the team that impressed her the most.
“The important thing is, because the other team is so worried about him it really opens up all our other good players,” she said.
“Jeff Crowe, Matthew Jukes and all our guys, they’re all able to make things happen.” It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Melton at the weekend, with the Thoroughbreds having to come back from 14 points down early in the third term.
Melton showed its class by pegging the margin back and then out-scoring Mildura 22-19 in the final term.
Crowe finished with 18 points, while Shane Moroney had 10.
“It was a game of peaks and troughs,” McCallum said.
“When we were good we were really good. We also had moments when we were pretty ugly.
“We probably didn’t want the ball bad enough to start with. I think we lifted our intensity on defence. We came out and fought harder for it and we played better defence all round. Our whole game lifts when our defence is good.”
Melton hosts Keilor this weekend.
The Thunder goes into the match after a tough 74-64 loss to Shepparton.
Elsewhere at the weekend
Geelong got the better of Sunbury, 94-90, and Casey was too good for Melbourne University, 71-64.