NBL23: Melbourne United import guard Rayjon Tucker responds to import rankings
Melbourne United import guard Rayjon Tucker has responded to being ranked fifth in News Corp’s import power rankings, boldly declaring: “I’m the best import – no other new NBL import checks off as many boxes.”
Tucker has spent the past three seasons splitting his time between the NBA, where he has played 39 games for the Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets and most recently the Milwaukee Bucks, and the G-League.
The 24-year-old was surprised to see his name at No.5 on the import power rankings behind Alan Williams (Phoenix), Jarrell Brantley (Breakers), Tyler Johnson (Bullets) and Derrick Walton Jr (Sydney Kings).
Tucker was so shocked with the rankings that he felt compelled to reach out and push his case as the NBL’s premier new import.
“It’s no disrespect to anyone else that is above me, but I don’t feel like there is a new import better than me,” Tucker said.
“It’s just me being a competitor.
“I’m here and ready to prove that I’m the NBL’s No.1 new import.”
Tucker certainly doesn’t lack confidence.
He credits his strong self-belief to his extensive resume, athleticism, and on-court ability.
“It’s just the things that I’ve done and my accolades within both the NBA and the G League,” he said.
“I also don’t think there is a player ahead of me that check off all the boxes like I do.
“That is from an offensive and defensive standpoint. I feel like I’m an all-round player whereas as the other four guys ahead of me don’t tick all the boxes athletically and passing wise.
“Some players may shoot better than me, but they all don’t check off every single box like my games does.
“I can also be a rim protector, if need be, I can guard one through four, so my versatility in all aspects makes me, in my opinion, better than the rest.”
Tucker showcased his skills in Melbourne United’s opening pre-season Blitz game against the Illawarra Hawks on Sunday.
United lost the match, but Tucker finished with a game-high 20 points, four rebounds and three assists.
He looked comfortable steering Melbourne around the court with his razor-sharp vision and pinpoint passing.
There are concerns around United, though, who looked sluggish in a 12-point loss against Illawarra.
United were missing stars Chris Goulding (illness) and Shea Ili (concussion), and it was only a trial, but the franchise will face challenges following the departures of stars Jo Lual-Acuil Jr (Europe), Matthew Dellavedova (Sacramento) and Jack White (Denver).
BELOW: INSIDE THE EXCLUSIVE DOCUMENTARY ON NBL’S WILDEST RIVALRY
Tucker refuses to overreact to Melbourne’s pre-season form to date, which also includes two losses to the Brisbane Bullets.
He believes United remain well placed to achieve high success in NBL23 on the back of coach Dean Vickerman.
“He holds us to a standard of excellence,” he said.
“I also hold myself to a standard of excellence, so Dean and I get along really well in that aspect.
“I know what he wants from me, on and off the court, so that is where we gel.
“We have a plan and a relationship where we can both be honest and blunt with each other.
“That helps us move in the right direction.”
United play the Perth Wildcats in their second NBL Blitz game on Wednesday from 8pm (AEST).
‘F***ING GRINDS MY GEARS’: BITTER MELBOURNE RIVALRY
– Michael Randall
Calling South East Melbourne the little brother or “little cousin” of Melbourne United is fighting words for fiery Phoenix coach Simon Mitchell.
A new documentary lifts the lid on the NBL’s biggest rivalry, which hit fever pitch during the first Throwdown of last season, thanks to Mitch Creek’s ferocious dunk on Matthew Dellavedova — and Mason Peatling’s resultant shoulder charge on the Phoenix star.
“I don’t like the reference to us as the little cousin, it f**king grinds my gears,” Mitchell said in the documentary NBL22: Next Level.
“I want to fight now. It’s insulting to us.
“We’re our own people, we’re not related to them.”
Mitchell and United coach Dean Vickerman have a long history — they played against each other and coached together — so it’s an interesting dynamic when the pair sits down to chat.
“We’re trying to stand in their way, we’re trying to not let them be the other Melbourne team that won a championship,” Vickerman says.
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They’re cordial — even if Mitchell admits he has no love for United.
“I don’t know if it’s animosity, it might be, from our perspective, a bit of jealousy — they’ve got what we want,” he said.
“They’re in our way. I think there’s a genuine dislike from our end.
“They may not respect us enough to dislike us, right now, but I hope it happens soon.”
United has two NBL banners to its name, the most recent of which came through the Phoenix in 2021 in a hard-fought three-game semi final stoush which featured plenty of back and forth, including Creek’s infamous “see you in game three” directed at Peatling.
“All the talk of ‘we’ll see you in game three’, like, ‘you will, you did’,” United captain Chris Goulding said.
“We beat them (in NBL21), so we’re the champions, so there’s kind of like what’s the pecking order of the league?
“Well, the people who won the year before, that’s how it is.”
***All six episodes of the documentary will air on Sunday, September 18, from 8pm AEST on ESPN and Kayo Sports.
Originally published as NBL basketball news 2022: Latest happenings from around the league ahead of NBL23