Recently retired champion Andrew Bogut has hailed Melbourne United the “clear title favourites” after the franchise secured Boomers big man Jock Landale on a one-year deal.
United confirmed Landale’s signature on Thursday to entrench the club as the team to beat for the upcoming season.
Bogut knows the addition of his former Australian teammate will place Melbourne at the top of the pile ahead of teams like the New Zealand Breakers and reigning champions the Perth Wildcats.
Landale is a major coup for United and the NBL given he has starred on the international stage in Lithuania and for the Boomers.
“Big signing. What a great team Larry Kestleman (United minority shareholder) has put together. Clear title favourites,” Bogut joked on Twitter, in reference to Kestelman owning the league and having a stake in several teams.
Landale most recently played in Lithuania for Žalgiris, who compete in the prestigious EuroLeague competition.
He had a breakout season in Europe, averaging 11 points, while shooting over 30% from the perimeter.
Landale played a key role for the Boomers at last year‘s FIBA World Cup in China while also impressed against Team USA in the exhibition games played in Australia in 2019.
The rising big man has his sights set on the NBA and next year’s Tokyo Olympics, but he believed that United was the perfect place to hone his craft and improve.
Landale has been training with Melbourne since mid-2020 after leaving his Lithuanian club.
“The club has already helped me so much that I feel like I will only come out of this experience better,” said Landale, whose one-year deal will include an NBA-out.
I have a lot to work on and feel like these guys are going to help me have a massive 6-7 months personally.
“I’m also eager to win a championship at this level and for this club before turning my attention anywhere else.”
As a Melbourne boy born and bred, and proud Geelong Grammar School product, Landale declared it was an “easy” choice to sign with United.
“Melbourne is one of the safest places to be during this pandemic and that is hard to turn down,” he said.
“We know the NBL will go the distance with little to no impact from COVID… hopefully I don’t jinx that.
“The decision to play for United came after that and again, it was easy because I loved playing with Chris (Goulding), Mitch (McCarron) and (David) Barlow when with the Boomers.
“I felt as though practising with the team during the last couple months made it so easy because we have already built really good chemistry.
“I am very excited to play with all the guys on the team and for such a great coaching staff. I’ve been very impressed with everything I’ve seen so far, and honestly credit to the whole organisation for putting together such a deep roster. I feel like every player on the roster could start on any NBL team.”
United coach Dean Vickerman believes Landale’s all-round ability will help his team become even better.
“We’re really very happy that we can finally say that Jock is a Melbourne United player,” Vickerman said.
“He’s been here working out with us for most of the off-season, and he certainly is impressive. He is a very mobile, strong, athletic centre, who can body you around the basket but also stretch the floor and hit the three-ball.
“We believe that our retention of players, combined with our recruitment, has put us in a great position to contend for another NBL championship.
“With the support of our members, sponsors, stakeholders and fans, we can’t wait to get this never-ending off-season out of the way and get stuck into the season.”
The NBL21 season tips off on January 10, 2021, with Melbourne United set to face cross-town rivals, the South East Melbourne Phoenix.