You would think after four NBL championships and almost 250 games that Alex Pledger has little to prove.
But the veteran Melbourne United centre has been in professional sport long enough to know there is always something to prove and as he continues his first season with Melbourne United, he wants to show he has plenty more to offer the NBL.
For almost a decade "Chief" was the man in the middle for the New Zealand Breakers as they developed into an NBL dynasty but in the off-season the club made some big changes with coach Paul Henare, club great Mika Vukona and Pledger all among those parting ways.
Challenge: Alex Pledger wants to break out of his shell and take more of a leadership role.Credit:Hannah Johnston
Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman has coached Pledger for more than a decade and quickly worked to secure the 31-year-old and the move has proven inspired with Pledger splitting minutes with Josh Boone and providing some crucial minutes.
Pledger said he went into every day knowing he needed to prove himself and now it was more about showing what he could offer in the coming years.
"That is probably a mindset you should always have, not just because you switched teams," Pledger said.
"There is always an up-and-coming young guy who will push you, this is a season where I've played under Deano before and he knows what I can do."
After watching Pledger battle with Joel Embiid during Melbourne's NBA pre-season tour, Vickerman has no doubt Pledger has a point to prove.
"I’ve been with him for a long time and I know he has a number of years left in him," Vickerman said.
"He is trying to prove that to a lot of people right now but for him to get to 250 games, he is going to be remembered as a winner.
"He has won four championships in this league and he can hopefully get another one so he can be up there with a David Stiff or a CJ Bruton."
Pledger and Melbourne play Brisbane Bullets twice this round starting with a clash in Brisbane on Saturday then a return game at Melbourne Arena on Monday night.
Pledger's long-time Breakers coach Andrej Lemanis leads the Bullets and Vukona landed with United this season.
Pledger is due to play his 250th game on Monday night so he will do so in front of familiar faces.
"It's not necessarily weird seeing Mika in a Bullets top but it is weird seeing him on the other side of the court," Pledger said.
"For almost 10 years we had almost been on all the same teams and had a lot of success together."
A few years ago, Pledger wondered if his career was ending after two off-seasons were ruined by ankle and big toe surgeries, the latter was an unusual injury which took him a long time to fully recover from.
"A couple of years ago I didn't think I would get to 250 games," Pledger said.
"If you look through basketball history, big seven-foot guys and lower extremity injuries are not a very good combo so there were times where I was coming back from long stretches not playing where I was struggling to get back into shape.
"I was remembering how to play almost and you wonder if you even still have it, but I've been lucky to have a lot of coaches who have shown faith in me and hopefully I've repaid that at least a little bit."
Despite being considered, funny and well-spoken, Pledger is rarely one to speak up around his teammates but he believes finding more ways to lead is his next challenge as he looks to extend his career.
"Am I a 35-minute a game guy? Probably not," Pledger said.
"But I've played in five grand finals, won four championships and I think I'm definitely capable of performing on the floor but the area I need to work most on is being able to breakout of my shell a little bit and share my experience with everybody by taking more of a role leadership wise.
"If I can improve on that area it will help me stick around longer.
"I tend to more of an observer and listener more than a peacock who walks into a room and makes my presence known.
"But as I get older that will be something I need to be more confident in doing."
Melbourne United play Brisbane Bullets at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on Saturday at 2.50pm (AEDT). On Monday, they host the Bullets at Melbourne Arena at 7.50pm.
Source: Read Full Article