THE Bendigo Braves will be strengthened for a crucial SEABL double-header this weekend.
Coach Ben Harvey side's will regain joint captain Chris Hogan and import Dyami Starks for games on Saturday night against the Albury-Wodonga Bandits and Sunday at the Nunawading Spectres.
The Bandits clash will be the finale to a huge Saturday at Bendigo Stadium, with the Braves women's and men's youth development in action in the afternoon, ahead of the Lady Braves clash against the Lady Bandits at 6pm.
Starks and Hogan were both absent for the Braves' two games on the weekend before Easter.
They included a road win against Sandrigham and a disappointing home loss to Geelong.
It's a busy few weeks for the Braves, with the clash against the Bandits the first of six in 16 days for the reigning national champions.
A pair of wins this would achieve Harvey's early season goal of being no worse than 4-2.
"Hogan's obviously still not at full flight, but to have him back and his presence on the floor will be fantastic," he said.
"Dyami's averaging 24 points right now and to have him back too is a huge asset.
"We struggled to put the ball in the hole (against Geelong), having those two guys is very exciting."
The Braves will tread warily against the Bandits, who despite their 1-2 record, lead the SEABL in scoring at 93 points per game.
"They know how to put the ball in the hole, so it will be a huge contest," Harvey said.
"But we set a goal to be 4-2 and this weekend we can achieve that.
"Right now we are one game behind (the leading team), so it's not panic stations."
Sunday's opponent Nunawading is a perfect four wins from four games, led by American Dain Swetella, who is averaging 22.5 points and 8.8 rebounds in his first year with the Spectres.
Harvey said he was pleased with the development of import C. J. Aiken, who leads the competition in rebounding with 14 per game.
Included was a staggering 23 in the win over Sandringham, complemented by his 13 points.
"The big thing when you recruit players is are they good players on and off the floor, and Dyami and C. J. tick those boxes," Harvey said.
"Sometimes you don't know what you are going to get, you do your homework and it doesn't quite pan out.
"I feel there is no doubt we have the right imports this year, the guys have really connected."
Harvey encouraged Braves followers to get behind a big Saturday of basketball.
Saturday's extravaganza of basketball tips-off at 2pm with the Braves' Big V Youth Championship Women's team playing the Hume City Broncos.
This will be followed by the men's youth league game against the Sunbury Jets at 4pm, SEABL Lady Braves versus the Lady Bandits at 6pm, with the Braves men at 8pm.
The men’s youth team are coming off a pair of losses before the Easter break, most recently a 72-64 loss to the Werribee Devils.
Jake Lloyd (19 points) and Lewis Beks (17), who made his SEABL debut a fortnight ago, were the standouts for the Braves.
The women’s youth team enjoyed a 74-55 win over the Kilsyth Cobras on April 9, led by top performances from Jess Rennie (22 points) and Hayley Harrington (17). Both will play for the Lady Braves on Saturday.
Tickets for the entire day are adults $10, children $5 and family (two adults, two children) $25 and (two adults, three children) $30.
Lady Braves eyeing 3-0 start
THE Bendigo Lady Braves will aim to keep their perfect record intact when they host the Albury-Wodonga Bandits on Saturday night.
Coach Jonathon Goodman's team could not have been more impressive in starting the season 2-0, with big wins over the Dandenong Rangers and Sandringham Sabres.
No fewer than six Lady Braves are averaging more than 10 points per game.
Recruits Carlie Smith (14.5ppg at 53 per cent shooting) ad Chloe Bibby (21ppg) lead the way.
Bibby is looking to back-up an imposing effort against the Sabres in Sandringham, which yielded 30 points and 11 rebounds.
The Lady Braves showed plenty of grit when challenged by the Sabres, to pull away and win by 29.
New import Ashley Rininger (11 points, four rebounds) got going in the second half and comes into the clash better prepared having now been in Australia for two weeks, as opposed to four days last time out.
Coach Goodman said the Bandits would be a tough proposition for his side, with quality talent in imports Toccara Ross (15.5 points and ten rebounds) and Adijat Adams, and recent US college graduate Emma Mahardy.