NBL21 Free Agency: Yudai Baba signs one-year deal with Melbourne United

From nbl.com.au :

Melbourne United have announced the signing of Japanese national Yudai Baba for the 2020-21 NBL Season. Baba has been signed as a Special Restricted Player and is classified as a local player on the Melbourne United roster.

The 24-year-old has most recently been playing in the NBA’s G-League for the Texas Legends after he was signed in late 2019 to the Dallas Mavericks. He played 41 games for the Legends, before the G-League season was cut short due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The 196cm guard from Toyama, Japan, represented Alvark Tokyo in Japan’s B.League between 2017-2019, helping his team win back to back titles. Baba also took out the Finals MVP honour in 2019, with a 12-point, 12-rebound performance.

However, it is on the world stage where Baba has earned the most attention, following some impressive performances for his country in the recent FIBA World Cup, including a standout 18-point showing against Team USA. Baba has also faced the Australian Boomers on multiple occasions during the FIBA Asian Cup.

The dynamic guard is known for his athleticism but has recently been developing his 3-point shot and a more aggressive mentality. Melbourne United’s Head Coach Dean Vickerman spoke of his excitement about the diversity that Baba will bring to his team, both on and off the court.

“Baba is going to bring something different to our club that we haven’t seen before. He’s a unique talent, but we’re really encouraged by what we’ve seen. I think he’ll really have an impact in our league.” Vickerman said.

“Our backcourt is going to be really competitive. Baba is a talented defensive player, so given that he will join Shea (Ili), Mitch (McCarron) and Chris (Goulding), the versatility that group will bring will allow us to mix it up and throw different looks at our opposition.”

Melbourne United’s CEO Vince Crivelli spoke about his enthusiasm of bringing Baba to the club, along with the attention he will draw from a different part of the world.

“We haven’t signed a Special Restricted Player before, so we are definitely excited to have signed Baba and we’re looking forward to welcoming him to our club.” Crivelli said.

“He’s a star of the Japanese national side, so we hope that the Japanese fans can get behind Baba and Melbourne United, as the NBL’s global popularity continues to grow. Building our international fanbase is important for our club’s development, and we believe that having a player such as Baba in our side will assist us in doing just that.”

Baba, currently in Tokyo, Japan, spoke of his enthusiasm to join his new teammates in Melbourne.

“I am very happy to have signed with Melbourne United. I am very grateful for the opportunity, and I shall really work hard in order to contribute to the team in any way that is needed to help the team win.” Baba said.

“I know of Melbourne United’s excellent reputation and the record of Coach Vickerman. I am very excited to be joining such a high-quality organisation and playing for Coach Vickerman. I have followed the Australian NBL for several years and am looking forward to playing in such an elite league and bringing a piece of Japan to Australia.”

“I have also heard really good things about the city and look forward to meeting the local Japanese basketball fans in Melbourne, too.”

Baba will be addressing the local Japanese media via a media conference in Tokyo at 11am AEST on Monday July 20

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