IMac bounces back to form in big way for Braves 

Last September, the Bendigo Bank Braves announced the “IMac” was back.

But the man himself, Ivan McFarlin, likes to think he’s not quite back – to his best, anyway – just yet.

Yesterday, he was announced the South East Australia Basketball League player of the week with a combined 52 points and 19 rebounds for round 11.

But the big American believes he can improve – and that’s a scary proposition for the Braves’ opponents.

“I’m steadily improving each week, I just want to continue and play hard,” McFarlin said.

“I think the first couple of weeks I was trying to get the team involved more, now coach (Ben) Harvey has been telling me he wants me to score first, rather than pass.

“If I didn’t win (the award) this week, I’m pretty happy with the 11-game winning streak – you can’t be too mad at that.”

By McFarlin’s lofty standards, it was an up-and-down start to his third season in Bendigo.

There were some outstanding statlines, like a 36 point, 26 rebound return against Canberra.

But he also had three games of 10 points or less in the opening seven rounds.

Now, after some old-fashioned hard work, the 2011 east conference player of the year is closing in on top form.

“I’ve really been working hard, I really want to win the grand final this year,” he said.

“The past couple of years we played (2010 and 2011) I’ve always got to the grand final and never won.

“So I’m taking that initiative to make myself better at practice.

“I was maybe like three or four kilos over (weight when he arrived) and I’ve got many people to thank for losing that.

“Pete Natoli from Punches in Bunches has really helped me out on my core with boxing and it took out a couple of kilos.

“I’ve been going to the YMCA in Eaglehawk, that’s helped me a lot.

“My team-mates just really pushed me hard to get better each week and I’ve shed the weight.

“I can see I’ve been a little bit quicker and I’m getting results.”

The Braves couldn’t have asked for McFarlin to find consistency at a better time.

Fellow import Jazz Ferguson’s scoring has dropped in recent weeks as he’s been double-teamed.

But the “IMac” has lifted.

In his past five games, McFarlin has averaged 25 points and 15 rebounds.

“I’m starting to work more on my shot and my ball-handling so I can be a more damaging player in the league,” he said.

After a difficult season with its imports last year, it’s been all about THE team for the Braves this season.

This year’s imports were picked for their ability, but also their desire to win and willingness to play with a team-first attitude. So far, it’s worked, as the Braves sit second on the east conference ladder with a 12-3 record.

McFarlin believes this year’s team is better than the two conference-winning sides and he hopes to play a big part in proving that.

“I just think now everybody knows their role and what they’re supposed to do on court. Hopefully, when it gets to that point again in finals, I’ll be ready.”

STARS: Bendigo Braves team-mates Ivan McFarlin and Jazz Ferguson have played roles in the club’s 11-game winning run. Picture: JIM ALDERSEY

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