NBL free agency news: Latest arrivals, departures and updates out of the Melbourne United camp
Melbourne United star Jack White will make his Boomers debut and then get his chance to impress in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets calling him up to Summer League.
Jack White believes he is lucky to be getting an NBA Summer League chance with the Denver Nuggets.
But luck is only a small element. The 24-year-old has worked tirelessly to recover and thrive after a ruptured Achilles, that can rob hoopers of their athleticism, threatened his career.
It’s a little over a year since the 24-year-old faced that long hard road back from surgery but, after an impressive season with Melbourne United that resulted in a three-year contract extension, coupled with a Boomers call up and now a chance to impress an NBA team, White says he’s “living the dream”.
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“My agent called me up and said ‘you’re going to Summer League’,” White told News Corp.
“I was like ‘that’s crazy’, I couldn’t believe it.
“I view Denver as such a high level organisation, obviously seeing what they’ve done with (two-time MVP) Nikola Jokic (Serbia) and international guys like (Canadian) Jamal Murray going to them, you’ve seen guys develop.
“They made me feel wanted and valued by their organisation and I’m just super excited to have that opportunity and take a step in the right direction of living out a lifelong dream.”
White will make his Boomers debut later this month in three FIBA World Cup qualifiers against Japan and China — and then get straight on a plane for Summer League.
“The Nuggets were supportive of me and they knew what it means to me to represent my country,” he said.
“They were excited for me to have that opportunity and happy that I was able to do both.”
The 200cm forward, who possesses NBA athleticism with the physicality that is a trademark of Aussie ballers, says he’ll go to Denver with an open mind, keen to learn more about his own game and what it takes to play at the highest level.
“It’s such an incredible opportunity and experience I’ve got coming up so I really just want to soak it all in and enjoy it,” he said.
“If I go in with that mindset I’ll be able to really get the best out of myself and not have any regrets once I’m done.
“It’ll be a chance to see where I’m at and what they (the Nuggets) think of me and my potential to make an impact at that level.
“I’ll find out if there are things I need to work on coming back here — if they think that’s a good idea — or if there’s a two way opportunity available.
“I’m not trying to put too many expectations on it. I’ll just play hard and try to go about things the right way and trust in that that I’ll see some rewards at the end of it.”
Lure of Delly irresistible for United’s new speed demon
Melbourne United has boosted its youth brigade with the addition of teenage guard Joshua Duach.
The lure of honing his craft under Aussie great Matthew Dellavedova was irresistible for the 19-year-old, who has signed a one-year deal as a development player.
United will have the option to upgrade him to a full roster spot in NBL24.
“It’s crazy to think I’m going to be teammates with an NBA champion like Matthew Dellavedova,” Duach said.
“The entire team, I know I’m just going to learn so much from them, guys like Jack White, Chris Goulding, Shea Ili, I couldn’t think of a better place for me to be.”
The 19-year-old Kilsyth junior, who played US college ball at Iona under legendary coach Rick Pitino, impressed United coaches in tryouts at the club’s Hoop City home base.
“My first pro contract and it’s at home where I grew up,” he said.
“Once I got the call that Melbourne United were interested, the decision was a no-brainer for me.
“I’m at Hoop City all the time, and I just can’t wait to join the group and get started.
“I feel comfortable here already.”
Coach Dean Vickerman called the 200cm combo guard “special”.
“To have that year with (Pitino) really gave him a skill package and a mentality to be ready to be a pro,” Vickerman said.
“His speed with the ball as a transition scorer is terrific, His ability to work the pick and roll and his three ball have both improved to a high level, but his elite skill is to be able to be so quick off the bounce, and then go to another level on that second dribble … there’s super speed there.”
Duach played alongside Dyson Daniels — who is tipped to go top-10 in Friday’s NBA Draft — in the silver-medal-winning Victorian side at the Australian U20 Basketball Championships.
JLA says farewell to Melbourne United
NBL22 MVP finalist Jo Lual-Acuil Jr is leaving Melbourne United.
The 28-year-old’s exponential improvement over three seasons with the club has put overseas offers on the table simply too good to refuse for the South Sudanese-born star centre.
While his destination remains a closely-guarded secret, Chinese club Nanjing Tongxi Monkey Kings have reportedly been in talks with the 211cm centre.
It leaves United with big holes to fill, with the club having spoken with a number of quality Australian bigs to deploy as help — and alongside — vastly improved German Next Star Ariel Hukporti.
United has inquired with Boomer and Illawarra Hawk Duop Reath, but he projects to the NBA, while the club is understood to have been in contact with forgotten Adelaide 36ers’ big man Isaac Humphries.
Humphries, through injury, missed all but six games last season and, with the Sixers signing big money imports Antonius Cleveland and Robert Franks, the 24-year-old is searching for a new home.
The 211cm Humphries, if his recent social media posts are anything to go by, is looking healthy and fit, with one ridiculous Insta video showing him performing an athletic running backflip — and wondering out loud if it’s a Guinness World Record.
Another forgotten man, former Charlotte Hornet Mangok Mathiang also has close ties to United — he’s practised with the team, plays in weekly scrimmages at Hoops City and has resurrected his career in NBL1 following two years on the sidelined due to a horror leg break.
Despite reports to the contrary, the club has not spoken with former Sacramento King Skal Labissiere
Lual-Acuil Jr is the definition of betting on yourself.
He was the last man added to Melbourne’s roster three years ago, played behind Jock Landale in NBL21 and made the ballsy decision to knock back the security of a long-term contract at United to sign a prove-it deal for NBL22.
“Super proud,” United coach Dean Vickerman said.
“He backed himself last year in just signing a one-year deal and believed that he was going to get to a level that he could be at a different pay scale.
“His goals are still to absolutely be in the NBA and I look forward to, if everything goes right, seeing him play at Summer League and looking at his NBA opportunities.”
Vickerman revealed Lual-Acuil Jr played an instrumental role in recruiting, connecting with United’s newest signing Makuach Maluach.
“I think he’ll still mentor from afar not being here,” Vickerman said.
Lual-Acuil Jr confirmed he would always be drawn to United.
“I’ve loved every minute of my time at Melbourne United,” Lual-Acuil Jr said.
“Hopefully I get the opportunity to run it back here later in my career.
Melbourne United inks viral dunk monster
The viral footage of his incredible NBL1 dunk put his name on the map, but it is another video of new Melbourne United signing Makuach Maluach that gives an insight into the quality human he is.
Maluach, last month, set the basketball world alight when he skied for a most-remarkable fast break dunk for the Darwin Salties, underlining why United has had its eye on the 24-year-old since his time at the University of New Mexico.
Maluach’s graduation speech after four years with the Lobos reveals why he was so-coveted by coach Dean Vickerman.
In it, the young man emphasised the values of education, family and time management, revealing he ditched the vice of video games that is a staple for so many NBA players.
“Basketball has been the catalyst for so many opportunities so you may think some of my greatest achievements came on the basketball court, but that’s not the case,” Maluach said in his speech.
“My greatest achievement is telling my mum that I’m a college graduate (business administration).
“As I matured, I learned to spend my time and energy on things that are important instead of things that didn’t add to my growth as a man — like playing video games all night.
“My family’s support has kept me grounded and focused on chasing my dreams and goals.”
Of Sudanese descent, Maluach migrated from Uganda with his mother, brothers and cousins at the age of 10, settling in Sydney.
“The last five years, I’ve probably spent three months with my family,” he said.
“The last two-three years I haven’t really seen them because of Covid and I went straight from America to Europe.
“Being back home is huge, I’ve always wanted to play in the NBL and I will get to see my family more.”
United is getting a 196cm uber athlete and a competitor at the guard position who is a second-year pro after he most recently averaged 13.6 points and 5 rebounds for Kouvot in the Finnish Korisliiga.
“Makuach is someone we certainly looked at last year coming out of college. We thought he handled himself really well last season in Finland for the first year of his pro career and elevated his team to the playoffs,” Vickerman said.
“He’s an amazing athlete, great rebounder, really potent in transition and his three-ball is getting to a really high level so we see him giving us a real scoring punch this season.”
Maluach, who signed a one-year deal with United, believes he can surprise in his first season in the NBL.
“My mindset is no one really knows much about me, I’m just starting from the ground up, my job is just to come in, compete and go from there,” he said.
“I’m just excited to be home and play for a club like Melbourne United.”
About THAT dunk, which was viewed more than 500,000 times on social media — Maluach had no idea how big it would become.
“When I got the ball, I didn’t really think much, I looked up and there was a lot of space and once I crossed half court, I decided to take off,’ he said.
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“Once I rewatched it. That’s when I realised. I didn’t think much of it until after the game.”
***Meanwhile, Melbourne United has agreed to terms with veteran Brad Newley. The 37-year-old has signed a one-year deal after United finished on top of the NBL table, but was shocked by the expansion Tasmania JackJumpers in the semi finals. The former Boomer was United’s Mr Fix-It, filling a variety of roles off the bench for Dean Vickerman’s side. He averaged 4 points and 2.65 rebounds.
Originally published as NBL free agency news: Latest arrivals, departures and updates out of the Melbourne United camp