By Jackson Russell

WHITTLESEA Pacers are ready and raring to go for the 2019 Big V season, which started at the weekend.The Pacers women have been promoted to the top-flight State Championship after making the finals in division one last season.

With the step up to State Championship, the team’s brought in Rachel Bell and Dani Reinwald from the United States.

Bell played her college basketball with Division I Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee where she started on the court in all four years, averaging 9.5 points, two rebounds and one assist in her college career.

Reinwald comes to Whittlesea from Division III school Medaille where, according to the school’s website, she had arguably one of the greatest season’s for any athlete in the school’s history.

She averaged 19 points, 16.1 rebounds, 3.9 steals, 2.5 blocks, and two assists per game all while shooting 45.3 per cent from the floor.

Women’s coach Damon Lowery said the departure of some players in the off-season had demanded a rebuild of the team.

“It’s an entirely new team. In the offseason, some of the girls from last season retired, some went to other clubs so it’s a total rebuild,” he said.

With a new team, Lowery said it was going to take a little while for the team to develop its style.

“Obviously a lot is going to be built around the two Americans, but judging on our size, we might be a pressure team but I’m going to throw a lot of different looks at teams and just experiment and see what suits us best,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot of similar sized girls, so defensively we can switch a lot and with our versatility, we might be able to find some mismatches so I’ve just got to see what the girls just feel most comfortable with.

“It’s hard to tell how we’ll go because the league’s changed… but we’re really excited because the State Championship is the highest level within Big V and what we’re trying to do here is raise the standard from Under 12s all the way up to senior women. We’re excited for the challenge and everybody’s young so the future is really bright.”

Division 1 Men

Whittlesea’s men’s squad is hoping a few years of building can lead to more success in 2019.

The club remains in division one after going 6-18 last season and coach Brian Vaughns said he had stuck with his core group, plus a few additions.

“We have a solid group and I think the growth is good as the group as stayed together over the last three years. This is what we’re building for,” he said.

The team has brought in Hakeem Simon as the team’s import this season. The 6’10” big from Grenada comes from Division I school McNesse State.

Simon said he was excited to be in Melbourne and to be part of the Pacers.

“I’m thankful to Coach Brian and the Pacers organisation for believing in me and bringing me here. I’m excited to get involved and I think we’re going to have a great year,” he said.

Vaughns said the Pacers have added a lot of size compared to last year’s roster.

“We went from having one player who was 6’9” and everyone else was 6’3” and under to having about three or four people who are 6’8” to 6’9” so we’ve grown a bit,” he said.

“The league we’re in, it’s a tough league, you’re getting ex-NBL players or current NBL players so with that, it makes it a really tough league.”

Vaughns said the added size gave his team more versatility at both ends of the floor.

“We have a group where we can go big and pound it or we can go small and run it,” he said.

“We’re quick enough, with guys like Dominic Bruno, Judson Seumanu, Brad Hassall and Tom Watson, guys that can run the floor. We can pretty much match any style of play.

“We couldn’t do that last year, we were running the floor but we couldn’t match up with the size whereas now we’ve got the versatility.”