Basketball: Vocal Vukona leads the way

By Kris Shannon

Mika Vukona. Photo / Getty Images
Mika Vukona. Photo / Getty Images

He leaves the highlights, the scoring and the accolades to more illustrious teammates, but on Friday Mika Vukona showed just why he may be the most important Breaker of all.

Vukona had 15 points and 15 rebounds in the Breakers' two-point victory over Townsville at the NSEC, leading his side on and off the court to their second win from three games.

Clearly disappointed with some of his teammates' efforts early in the game, Vukona waited until a timeout to let rip with a rant which would have fallen foul of the television censors.

He proceeded to practise what he preached and had accumulated a double-double early in the second spell, before saving the defending champions from a galling loss with two key defensive plays as time wound down.

Crocs coach Paul Woolpert called Vukona the difference in the game, an understatement when properly weighed against his contribution.

"I think every coach in this league would love a Mika Vukona," Woolpert said.

"He dominates the game in terms of physicality, he's extraordinarily quick for a big guy, he can defend all five positions on the floor.

"He has to be a fun guy to play with and coach."

Except, as the Breakers found in the second quarter, when his high standards are not met.

"I think I might have lost my head a little bit," Vukona said of his outburst. "But I saw something that I didn't like."

His teammates responded with a 16-0 run to seize control of the contest, before cruising to an 11-point lead late in the fourth quarter.

When Townsville went on a run on their own to level the scores with 20 seconds left, Vukona stepped up and used his smarts to force a mishandle and win back possession.

And when Cedric Jackson had seemingly iced the game with a clutch layup, Vukona made sure of matters by stealing the Crocs' inbound pass to seal it.

"Mika's unbelievable, there's no doubt," Andrej Lemanis said. "His contribution was sensational. That's as good as I've seen him play in my time."

Vukona agreed his monster performance had been brewing after a couple of quiet games, and the Tall Blacks captain sounded an ominous warning to every offence in the Australian NBL.

"I've come into this season with a more aggressive mindset," he said. "I'm trying to be aggressive defensively, because that's where everything comes from."

- APNZ

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