A FORMER fan favourite at Bendigo Stadium will make an unexpected return on Thursday night.
Jeremy Kendle, who won the former SEABL league's Most Valuable Player award during the Bendigo Braves' 2016 championship season, will line-up for New Zealand Breakers in their NBL clash against Melbourne United.
The import guard was signed by the Breakers earlier this month following a fill-in stint with Adelaide 36ers.
Kendle is pinching himself at the opportunity to play in an NBL match in the city where he enjoyed so much team and personal success.
"I am looking forward to it, I had the honour of playing in the first (men's) game at the new stadium and now to go back and be playing at the NBL level is really exciting," he said.
"I get to play in front of old team-mates, coaches and friends in the community and I know that they will get around the game and hopefully that makes for a good atmosphere.
"I am really looking forward to playing in front of all those guys and competing for a W in the NBL."
Kendle's path to the Breakers, via Adelaide, has in some ways mirrored that of the team's journey this NBL season.
The Breakers have been away from their native New Zealand since early December, having based themselves at various intervals in Melbourne and Hobart.
Based in Victoria during the NBL Cup, the Breakers will soon return to Tasmania and will play their home games out of Launceston.
Kendle, who was also the grand final MVP for the Braves in 2016 and returned to play a second season in Bendigo in 2018, said the city held plenty of fond memories for him, including the grand opening of the redeveloped stadium on May 25.
"I remember the first play of the first game, Ray Turner getting an alley-oop (from Indiana Faithfull), and the crowd loving it," he said.
"It was a fun night.
"And then there's always the (2016) championship."
The 32-year-old will be lining up in his second match this season for the Breakers after seven with the 36ers.
He is averaging 5.38 points per game and 1.75 assists in his limited role.
Kendle felt the Breakers, who have endured plenty of hardship away from home and head to Bendigo with a 4-10 record, were in many ways a perfect fit for him.
"The boys are getting behind me and supporting me and I can tell they really believe in and trust me to bring some play-making to the team," he said.
"The coaching staff has been phenomenal in delivering their system to me and getting me up to speed with the plays.
"It's not unfamiliar territory for me, I've had these game-to-game contracts in the NBL for a while now, so I'm a bit understanding of the pros and cos and the challenges and how I can bring value to the team.
"I'm just very excited to be playing basketball again at this level after a long 22 months being out with an ACL and then COVID."
United will be looking to protect their perfect record in Bendigo this season.
They won the first of three matches scheduled in Bendigo this season against South East Melbourne Phoenix on January 31, before defeating Perth Wildcats a week later.
Tickets for Thursday's game are adults $20 and children $10.
Tip-off is 7.30pm.
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