STAR Albury-Wodonga Bandits centre Momo Ntumba is back on the Border, declaring himself fully fit and raring to go for the 2014 SEABL season.
The Congolese powerhouse has been a popular figure for the Bandits since spearheading Albury-Wodonga to a fairy-tale conference and league championship double in 2012.
But a patella tendon injury in his left knee that required season-ending surgery sidelined Ntumba after just nine games last year.
Without their defensive anchor, the Bandits tumbled from title contention to finish with an 11-17 record and sixth in the South Conference.
Having spent the off-season at AS Hammamet in the Tunisian National League, Ntumba said he had recovered and was determined to help propel the Bandits back to the playoffs.
“I’m very glad to be back,” Ntumba said.
“It’s a great place to play, a lovely community here.
“My knee is already a lot better since I started playing again.
“When I started back playing in Tunisia there was some pain but it’s completely pain-free now.
“The expectations here for me remain the same; we won the championship the first year but things happened that meant we couldn’t defend it.
“So this year we’re looking at the same goals, make the playoffs and from there fight for the championship.”
With new point guard in Jamar Briscoe and a retooled game plan from coach Brad Chalmers, Ntumba was confident the Bandits had the depth to compete in a tough, realigned East Conference.
In addition, Ntumba said he had trimmed down in an effort to improve his mobility without sacrificing any of the strength that made him such a feared opponent in 2012.
“The new players look good and there’s a new offence the coach has put in that should help everyone,” he said.
“From the point guard to the bigs, everyone can play.
“We’ll have to be ready to play from the start, to learn the new system and to find the right combinations of line-ups.
“I’ve been trying to keep myself around the 105 to 106-kilogram mark, a bit lighter but still strong so I can run faster and jump higher.
“My first year here I was around 108-109 kilograms, which was good for physical play but not for running and jumping.”
The Bandits tip off their SEABL campaign when they host North West Tasmania on March 22, at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre.