The South East Melbourne Phoenix will rise in the NBL from next season and they’re hopeful former Adelaide 36ers star Mitch Creek will lead the charge.
Victoria’s Deputy Premier James Merlino, NBL chief executive Jeremy Loeliger and Phoenix general manager Tommy Greer unveiled the new franchise’s name, logo and predominantly green colours at the State Basketball Centre on Saturday.
The NBL’s ninth team will join the competition for the 2019-20 season and will play home games at Melbourne Arena, along with cross-town rivals Melbourne United.
Creek recently trialled with the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA and remained in the United States with the Nets’ feeder club after he was cut.
Greer has a lot on his plate as he builds the Phoenix from the ground up but signing Creek is a priority.
“I don’t think there’s an NBL team out there who isn’t hunting Mitch Creek’s signature and we are certainly one of them,” Greer said.
“Who wouldn’t want to have a player of that calibre represent them?
“But he’s got lofty NBA dreams, he’s not far off that, and we wish him all the best.
“I hope he makes it … but if he doesn’t I’ll be waiting there at his door.”
Former Melbourne United assistant coach Simon Mitchell was appointed as the club’s the head coach last month.
Romie Chaudhari, a co-owner of Welsh football club Swansea City, was awarded the expansion licence in July and worked with the league to scout potential locations for the team across the country before settling on Melbourne’s south-east.
Loeliger hopes the Phoenix will enjoy a similar rivalry with United that Melbourne teams the Tigers, Magic and Giants, along with the Geelong Supercats, shared in the league’s glory days in the late eighties and early nineties.
“There’s a storied history of professional basketball in south-east Melbourne and it’s been in hiatus for too long,” Loeliger said.
“We’re thrilled to be back here.
“The reason everyone refers to the previous golden era of the NBL is primarily because of those rivalries.
“I think the narrative of rivalries will take this competition to the next level again.”
While the team will play home games at Melbourne Arena it will be based at the State Basketball Centre in the city’s south-east, with the possibility of some games being played there following a proposed renovation.