By Jackson Russell
The Whittlesea Pacers have welcomed three new imports into the fold as the Big V season kicks off on Saturday, March 14.
The Pacers’ women’s team has brought in I’mani Davis and Saule Kontautaite to bolster its roster and it has another crack at the Championship division while the men have brought in Francis Kiapway to help get them back up to division one after being relegated.
A 183cm forward from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Davis was a two-sport athlete at Tennessee State, winning a high jump gold medal at the Ohio Valley Conference track and field championships.
Davis started all four years at Tennessee State, averaging 10.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists over her college career.
After sitting out a year with injury, she got her first taste of professional basketball in Ireland before joining the Pacers for the 2020 Big V season.
Davis said her versatility is one of her best strengths.
“I can guard every position, I rebound, I can bring the ball up the floor, shoot, I can do a lot of everything,” she said.
With her athletics background, Davis said she wants the Pacers to run and push the ball in transition.
“I’ve had many conversations with Coach Lowery about it already, before I even got here. He said that he liked that I was versatile so I can get a rebound, push it up so I think you’ll see a lot of that this season,” she said.
Kontautaite spent the last two years in the Coburg Giants program, returning to basketball after a few years away from playing.
The 175cm guard played for the Lithuanian national team throughout her junior career before moving to the United States to play high school, junior college and eventually college basketball at Western Illinois.
After graduating, Kontautaite spent four years coaching, including as an assistant coach at Texas A&M International.
A sharpshooter, Kontautaite shot 32.2 per cent from three-point range last season with the Giants, with 118 of her 190 field goal attempts for the season coming from long range.
Kontautaite said her goal is to help the Pacers improve on last season’s four wins.
“We want to at least double that and make finals. Otherwise, we really want to come along as a team, enjoy our time and hopefully things will work out,” she said.
Kontautaite said she’s hoping to stick around in Australia for a while.
“I’m actually trying to live in Australia so if things work out the way they should work out, I’ll definitely look forward to playing here for at least five years,” she said.
Kiapway comes to the Pacers for his first full year in the professional ranks after four years at Ball State and a cup of coffee for Sudway Five in Canada’s National Basketball League.
Born in the Congo, the 190cm guard played high school basketball in Connecticut, West Virginia and Ontario, Canada before committing to Ball State where he averaged 7.0 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists in his college career in 24.1 minutes per game.
Kiapway said he likes to have the ball in his hands and be a perimeter threat.
“I think Coach [Michael Goulimis] is going to look at it predicated on what the defence
gives me,” he said.
“Right now, we can’t really tell because we’ve only played one game but I know he likes the ball in my hands a lot of times.
“We spoke a lot and it’s also going to come down to me getting my teammates involved and being able to come off the screens and not just use ball screens every time.
“However I can be effective is the way he’s going to try to play me most.”
Kiapway said one of the Pacers goals in division two is to finish in the top two of the league.
“I think that’s the smallest goal. The biggest goal is obviously winning the whole thing and moving back up to division one,” he said.
“Nobody wants to stay at the bottom so the only place to go is up. I’m just focused on locking in, winning, putting in the work and letting my game show for it.”