‘He’s the best in the league’: Vickerman praises Ili’s defensive presence
Melbourne United Media
Fresh off Melbourne United’s 18th victory of the season, Head Coach Dean Vickerman used his time with the media post-game to highlight the efforts of Shea Ili.
Playing in his third game back following a concussion, Ili was outstanding, finishing the game as a game-high +22 in 22 minutes, while tallying eight points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals.
A big part of his performance came on the defensive end, where he hounded opposing guards Ben Ayre and Owen Foxwell, who combined for 13 missed shots and seven turnovers.
Speaking after the contest, Vickerman broke down exactly why Ili is so important to United’s success.
“He’s the best in the league in the connection of point guards and being able to get over screens,” Vickerman explained.
“You look at the teams that we’re going to play in the Playoffs and everyones got an elite guard that uses a lot of ball screens, so it’s an absolute luxury to have the best guy in that area.
“It allows our bigs to play in a position where they know it’s much easier to play two because Shea’s going to get back in front of his (man) and they won’t have to switch too much.
“He wears people down. Ben Ayre has been playing really good basketball and I thought Shea, when he was on him, made his life very difficult.”
These comments were echoed by assistant coach Rhys Carter, who credited Ili’s dogged defence as the reason United were able to make their game-winning third quarter run.
“Shili was back to himself,” he said.
“He missed a couple of weeks there and he’s come back playing well, back to that elite level defence.”
“He was just not giving them anything, really in the lanes, denying and disrupting, getting deflections, causing steals and then obviously hitting shots as well so it was great to see him play a huge role.”
Ili has long been considered the league’s best defensive guard, having twice finished in the top-three in Defensive Player of the Year voting.
The dynamic Kiwi has anchored United’s league best defence across NBL24, and will look to put together another lockdown performance on Sunday afternoon when Melbourne host the New Zealand Breakers.
Tickets are sold out, so if you’re not in the building, make sure you don’t miss a second of the action by tuning in on Kayo Freebies or 10 Peach.