STANDING TALL: From development prospect to valuable depth player, Noah Valentich, 20, is making the most of his increased court time for the Mildura Heat in 2019. Photo: PAUL MENSCH
By MITCH RODD
FOR years Noah Valentich had watched the stars of the Mildura Heat light up the Toyota Hothouse and wanted to follow in their footsteps.
Now the 20-year-old has an important role as an impact substitute for the Big V Basketball side in their push for premiership glory.
Now into his third season as a member of the King Construction Mildura Heat side, the 195-centimetre youngster has experienced a huge spike in playing minutes.
In fact, Noah is one of only three players to have seen court time in all 15 games this season, alongside captain Alex Newstead and import Jacob Pettway.
The appointment of Mahaela Jackson as coach of the Division Two Men’s side for 2019 has seen many of her young stars get an extended opportunity to impact in games.
That depth will be vital to the side who are second on the ladder with 12 wins and three losses heading into the home stretch.
“The first couple (of seasons) were development years where I only played a few minutes here and there,” Noah said.
“I’ve been given a bit of confidence, I reckon I fit her (Mahaela’s) game plan either playing defence or getting out and running, which is my strength.
“The chemistry we have is really good.
“I really looked up to a few of them for a long time and I always wanted to play for the Heat. Now I get to play alongside them.”
Noah, who has been a member of Mildura Heat development programs since Under 14 level, has played 288 minutes this season. In that time he has scored 89 points at an average of 5.93 per game, as well as averaging 4.53 rebounds and 1.13 assists per game.
He has scored in every game, breaking double figures twice with a best haul of 14 in 23 minutes against the Packenham Warriors in March.
His largest amount of time on court in a single game was 30 of 40 minutes against the Altona Gators in April, in which he scored eight points and put up eight defensive rebounds.
Star Calvin Henry and defensive general Dave Meyer were two of the players Noah had admired from the stands, and he said their support and energy had played a key role in his development, plus the team’s chemistry.
Following a phenomenal 12-game winning streak to start the season, the Heat dropped their last three games before the competition bye for the Queen’s Birthday weekend.
Henry has missed these games with Achilles soreness, however Noah said there were some adjustments the side still needed to make.
“We probably need to work on a few defensive rotations. Obviously not having Calvin there means one less big body,” he said.
“We’re second on the ladder at the moment, and hopefully we can get back up and running and winning games before finals.
“The goal is always to win. We finished second last year and obviously we want to go one better.”