Minor premiers Melbourne United will open their NBL semi-final campaign at full strength after shooting guard Chris Goulding was declared fit to play the opening game against the New Zealand Breakers.
Goulding picked up an ankle injury in United's final regular season game but has recovered in time for game one of the best-of-three series at Hisense Arena on Saturday.
"It pulled up pretty sore the day after but there was never any real concern that I would miss this game," Goulding said after United final training session.
The Australian Boomers guard was forced to sit out last week's World Cup qualifiers against the Philippines and Taiwan but returned to full training during the FIBA window.
With Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman putting the players through a rigorous training schedule over the break, including wrestling and yoga sessions, Goulding says United are well prepared leading into the series with the Breakers.
"We have been itching to compete so the sessions that we've had have been really physical, great competitive nature. You can tell that the guys are ready to play," he said.
Winners of four NBL titles since 2011, New Zealand boast plenty of finals experience and Goulding knows United need to handle the Breakers' intensity early to open the series on the right note.
"We have to go out there and match the physicality," he said.
"We believe we are a team that gets better the longer the game goes on so the starts are really important for us.
"We've dragged back deficits before but we don't want to do that again."
Melbourne point guard Casper Ware is looking forward to seeing his back-court partner in action as the club pushes for their first play-off victory since adopting the United name in 2014.
"To see him running out here really ready, jumping and dunking - it's going to mean a lot for us in this first game," Ware said.
Ware was named alongside centre Josh Boone in the all-NBL first team at the NBL Gala Dinner this week, with Tai Wesley earning second-team honours and Vickerman winning NBL coach of the year.
Australian Associated Press