Shepparton Gators weekend preview

By Alex Mitchell

A double-header awaits the Shepparton Gators this weekend and it will take them to opposite ends of the Big V Division One ladder.

The Gators, cruising along nicely at 7-2 with the best winning percentage in the league, will host bottom-ranked La Trobe City Energy tonight, before commuting to Warrandyte tomorrow to tackle the league-topping Venom.

The Energy has not won a game this season, languishing in last place with an 0-9 record, a streak they will be desperate to do something about.

But Shepparton coach Leigh Bathman knows his side will need to be on its toes.

“La Trobe is a bit hard, they’re waiting on a visa clearance on an import, and if he gets cleared they’re a much tougher proposition than what ladder positions would suggest,” he said.

“But they do have a couple of decent players, like Billy Hughes who is a good quality player. Unfortunately for them they’ve been a bit decimated by injuries and player unavailability.”

But tomorrow’s contest will not be easy in any way, the Venom sitting with an 8-3 record having won its past four games, including a 39-point blowout of the Energy last weekend.

“Warrandyte is a very good side, they’re a very deep team,” Bathman said.

“Bryan Moore is back and his brother David is there, they make a tough duo to combat. Their import Jacob Thom is also very talented.

“They play the game the right way, they’re very physical and hard-working.”

For the Gators, somewhat of a big three has emerged with Atem Atem (21.2 points and 9.6 rebounds a game), Carlin Dupree (19.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.2 assists) and Javaan Mumtaz (19.9 points) carrying the statistical load.

Long-range shooting has also been somewhat of a strength, with Atem (50 per cent) and Mumtaz (45 per cent) shooting impressive clips from distance on a good volume of attempts.

Bathman said the team was tracking in the right direction, with a 2-0 sweep weekend high on the priority list.

“We’re still working on that synergy and getting everyone jelled together – our best basketball is still ahead of us,” he said.

“We want to continue to improve in those areas, but that will come with more time and games together.

“When we play good team basketball and share the ball around, we’re a tough team to beat, so we want to continue to do that.

“We know our high quality players need to perform for us to do well, but there’s also really good support players we want to step up and help share the load.”