Melbourne United say fitness is key to the impact of German teenager Ariel Hukporti, who is looking to follow NBL Next Stars graduate LaMelo Ball into the NBA.
The 19-year-old seven footer, as well as Jo Lual-Acuil, will cover the loss of Jock Landale, who was a stand-out in United's drive to the 2020-21 NBL crown.
Landale picked up an NBA deal with San Antonio after starring for Australia at the Tokyo Olympics.
Hukporti's athleticism is undeniable but United coach Dean Vickerman says the youngster's game time will depend on his fitness.
"It's about how much conditioning we can get into him at the moment without breaking his body," Vickerman said on Thursday.
"He got through a full practice today but in his own words he didn't talk well enough to the rest of the group because of his conditioning.
"But we love the short bursts that we saw from him in the Wollongong game in supporting Jo and there could be a great combination at centre for us.
"We will continue to challenge how long he can play at a really high intensity but if can get three or four great minutes out of him at high intensity he has the ability to change the scoreboard a little bit."
Melbourne's big name recruit, NBA championship-winning Matthew Dellavedova, is also starting to make his mark after his return to the NBL.
Vickerman said he was building a blossoming combination with his centres.
"Delly's growth has been really good and we saw at times today that once he got into the paint he really slowed down and that allows him to make his runner, with Ariel and Jo especially as the guys diving on the rim - they can be a late lob opportunity," Vickerman said.
"The guys are starting to understand each other on that one.
"I thought his defence against Illawarra was outstanding and his three ball is getting more consistent.
"We didn't really know what to expect whether he was just going to come in and dominate our practices, but he's taken his time to understand how we do things and now he's starting to add the value that we want."
United will wrap up their pre-season preparation with a final hit-out on Sunday against cross-town rivals South East Melbourne Phoenix who boast their own seven-plus footer in Chinese national Zhou Qi.
They will open the season away to Sydney Kings on December 5.
Australian young gun Jack White won't be available for round one but is ahead of schedule in his return from an Achilles injury.
Australian Associated Press