BENDIGO Spirit will have plenty of new faces on the court this season, but the team's coaching ranks will remain stable.
The Spirit have re-signed lead assistant coach Mark Alabakov for the 2020-21 season, his second in the role under head coach Tracy York.
While his first season as coach of the Bendigo Braves NBL1 women's team never got off the ground in 2020, Alabakov has remained busy on the basketball front, actively engaging with both Spirit and Braves players during the break in play due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Coach York, who signed a two-year contract at the start of last season, praised Alabakov's input.
"I can always count on Mark to bring his unique enthusiasm and energy to every session," she said.
"He has been great with the Spirit at-home Zoom training sessions, which have enabled all the girls to remain in touch and focused on the upcoming season.
"Mark just has that positive mental attitude and he is wholly engrossed in what we are trying to achieve with the Spirit and I am looking forward to working with him again."
Alabakov possesses a wealth of coaching experience through previous roles in NBL and WNBL programs and across other levels, including SEABL, Big V and Junior State League teams for the past 14 years.
"I'm excited to back on board with the Spirit for the coming WNBL season. Tracy and I have a great rapport, align in values and work really well together in leading the evolution of Bendigo Basketball." he said.
"As the saying goes 'the day you plant the seed is not the day you pick the fruit' and our shared diligence, professionalism and vision as a coaching staff makes me excited for what the future holds for the club."
The natural relationship between Alabakov's role with the Spirit and the Braves is something Spirit general manager Ben Harvey is also excited about.
"The rise of 16-year-old Piper Dunlop from Junior Brave to a training spot with the Spirit is a prime example of the basketball pathway in Bendigo; Mark's roles can only build on that," he said.
The Spirit have signed 10 players so far for the 2020-21 season, including a mix of returning and new faces.
Opals star Tessa Lavey and last season's club MVP Carley Ernst head the list of returning stars, while new signings include New Zealand Tall Ferns squad member Mary Goulding, 12-year WNBL veteran Amelia Todhunter, Alicia Froling, who was initially signed to play last season but did not join the team due to injury, and exciting youngster Cassidy McLean, who previously represented the Spirit in 2018-19.
Alabakov is clearly excited by the player mix.
"We worked hard to make a lot of progress with the program holistically last season, on and off the floor, and it presents us with a stronger foundation to build upon in the coming season and beyond," he said.
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