THE Albury-Wodonga Bandits yesterday unveiled their import combination for this year’s SEABL campaign, with coach Brad Chalmers quietly excited about the potential of new playmaker Eric Vann.
Vann, a 180-centimetre point guard from Bowie State University, joins returning powerhouse Momo Ntumba for the Border club’s title defence and Chalmers said Bandits fans can expect some explosive action from their latest acquisition.
With almost all of the Bandits’ championship-winning squad returning, Chalmers said finding a replacement for star guard Jazz Ferguson was crucial — but wasn’t the main priority.
“No disrespect to anyone but our biggest need was to get Momo (Ntumba) back,” Chalmers said.
“We’ve got some depth in the guard position and Momo’s ability to lead us down the stretch was outstanding.
“That was the difference in us winning the championship, his ability to control the paint and cause problems for the opposition.
“There’s no doubt he’s going to come back with a better understanding of the team and the league, it’s one of those things where we really needed to get him back here.”
Having gone through an extensive list of candidates for the import playmaking role, Chalmers said it was a “no-brainer” to sign Vann, who he felt was easily the best fit for the Border outfit.
“Losing Jazz was a bit of a shock but we focused on the best talent available and Eric really stood out,” Chalmers said.
“He brought all the things we were looking for, his ability to run the team, but the one thing that really separated him was his explosiveness.
“That was key for us, his size as a guard is pretty important and I think Eric gives us a little more strength.
“We felt he was the best guy for the community and our team. When you put that together with his talent it was really a no-brainer.”
Vann admitted he was looking forward to getting to know his new teammates.
“It’s very exciting, it’s been a long process to get here,” Vann said.
“I have high expectations for myself, I’m going to play hard and let my game speak for itself.
“My strengths are my quickness, my athleticism, I’m left-handed and I’m explosive.
“Talking to the coach and my agent, we thought this was the best fit and opportunity for me.
“Hearing his name (Ferguson) doesn’t affect me, my job is just to do better than what he did. I love having that on my back and I’m going to try to do the things he couldn’t do and do better for this team.”
As ever, the stoic Ntumba didn’t have a lot to say but he said the Bandits should be confident about a tilt at back-to-back SEABL crowns.
“I always wanted to come back, we like to say back home that you never change a winning team,” Ntumba said.
“Winning the title wasn’t our original goal, we surprised everyone by winning the championship.
“I’m confident we can go back-to-back, we just need to believe and have faith in the coaching staff and team-mates and we can reach that goal again.”