Fresh and familiar faces stuff the stats sheet in week one

THERE were plenty of standout individual performances in the opening round of the 2023/24 National Basketball League (NBL) season over the weekend.

After months of waiting, proceedings finally got underway, as seven games took place over the span of four days, with no shortage of action from the first game on Thursday, to the final match on Sunday.


As expected, there were some eye-catching showings from not only some of the NBL’s most experienced campaigners, but also a number of players making their debut in Australia’s premier basketball league.

During this weekly series, Rookie Me Central will be putting the leaders of each key statistical category under the microscope, which will play a key role in award races later in the season. Although this will be the smallest sample size of the series, it is a clear indicator of which players could be in for a big campaign.

Points per game

  • Parker Jackson-Cartwright (New Zealand Breakers) – 25
  • Ben Henshall (Perth Wildcats) – 24
  • Jordan Usher (Perth Wildcats) – 23.5
  • Kouat Noi (Sydney Kings) – 23
  • Jack McVeigh (Tasmania JackJumpers) – 22

New Zealand’s boom recruit Jackson-Cartwright leads the way here, storming out of the gates with an exceptional Round 1 performance. He was filling some big shoes left by Barry Brown Jr., but forged his own name into the team with a stirring performance in the win over the Taipans.

Henshall is the most surprising name on the list, given Perth played two games throughout the round and he only appeared in the second. In that match (a loss to the Phoenix), Henshall came off the bench to produce the best performance of his short career at any level, pouring in 24 points in his NBL debut. He became the first Aussie to top score during their NBL debut, and showed exactly what he can do if given the opportunity.


His teammate, Usher could not have started the season any better if he tried, leading Perth to a gritty win over the JackJumpers. The import poured in a whopping 35 points in the win, proving the go-to option as the defence collapsed in on some of his more recognisable teammates. Although he could not reach these heights during the following match, Usher’s ability to take over a match with pure scoring power has already been demonstrated.

The Kings started their title defence in perfect fashion with a win over the Hawks, and it was Kouat Noi leading the charge for the reigning champions. He shot the lights out from downtown, nailing six of his three-pointers to give Sydney a true presence from behind the arc.

Rounding out the top five is Jack McVeigh, who delivered one of the better performances of his tenure with the JackJumpers. Although Tasmania fell to Perth on the road, their star forward was immense with a team-high 22 points to keep his side’s score ticking over to remain in the match.

Rebounds per game

  • Aron Baynes (Brisbane Bullets) – 13
  • Ariel Hukporti (Melbourne United) – 12
  • Sam McDaniel (Brisbane Bullets)/Sam Froling (Illawarra Hawks) – 11
  • Tyrell Harrison (Brisbane Bullets)/Marcus Lee (Tasmania JackJumpers)/Mitch Creek (SEM Phoenix) – 9
  • Luke Travers (Melbourne United)/Tyler Cook (SEM Phoenix) – 8.5

After a disappointing campaign to kickstart his time in the NBL last season, Aron Baynes looks back to his best after carrying his strong preseason form into Round 1. If the Bullets are to make a charge into the postseason come season’s end, they will need some serious output from their star big man, and 13 boards in the opening win over Adelaide is as promising sign as any.

Slotting into the starting lineup to replace the injured Jo Lual Acuil, NBL Next Star Ariel Hukporti had a magnificent opening weekend with a pair of strong performances. He pulled down 24 rebounds over two games, including a whopping 14 in the season opener against the Phoenix. His presence in the paint was undeniable, and he will look to carry his form into the next round.

Sam McDaniel appears to be slotting into his new team nicely, helping the Bullets with his physical presence in the paint, while Sam Froling is experienced in getting first hands on the ball. Speaking of new recruits, the JackJumpers will be thrilled with the debut of Marcus Lee, while Tyrell Harrison was excellent backing up Baynes, while Mitch Creek got involved on the glass in both of his team’s outings.

Assists per game

  • Denzel Valentine (Sydney Kings) – 10
  • Parker Jackson-Cartwright (NZ Breakers)/Bryce Cotton (Perth Wildcats)/Milton Doyle (Tasmania JackJumpers – 8
  • Shannon Scott (Brisbane Bullets) – 7
  • Patrick Miller (Cairns Taipans) – 6
  • Jacob Wiley (Adelaide 36ers)/Jack McVeigh (Tasmania JackJumpers) – 5

It was a strong debut from Sydney’s star recruit in the team’s win over the Hawks on Saturday. Valentine was one of the biggest names to join the NBL over the off-season, and demonstrated his value with a terrific playmaking performance. Allowing the likes of Noi and Jaylen Adams to take the most shots, Valentine did a marvellous job at finding his teammates in scoring positions.

Jackson-Cartwright showed he is not just a scorer, and more than capable of leading New Zealand’s offence on any given night, while Bryce Cotton overcame some cold shooting to still impact the game with his passing. Milton Doyle picked up right where he left off as a member of the All-NBL First Team last season, while Shannon Scott and Miller were excellent up north.

Steals per game

  • Parker Jackson-Cartwright (NZ Breakers) – 6
  • Jaylin Galloway (Sydney Kings) – 5
  • Patrick Miller (Cairns Taipans) – 4
  • Alex Toohey (Sydney Kings)/Will Cummings (SEM Phoenix)/Tyler Harvey (Illawarra Hawks)/Marcus Lee (Tasmania JackJumpers) – 3
  • Keanu Pinder (Perth Wildcats) – 2.5

Is there anything Jackson-Cartwright can not do? In one of the debuts to remember, the crafty guard worked extremely hard defensively as well as impacting the game with ball in hand. He hounded and pestered Cairns during offensive sets, and created plenty of transition points as a result of this.

Jaylin Galloway was one of the breakout stars of the round, not only getting involved on the scoring front, but also proving a constant disrupter to Illawarra’s passes and dribbles. There was a lot to like about his performance, especially how active his hands were defensively, with the Hawks looking to avoid him at all costs when setting up their play.

Miller was easily Cairns’ best player on both ends of the court, proving a handy addition to a side that lost some big names over the offseason. He had an engaging duel with Jackson-Cartwright, as the pair traded transition plays and defensive stops.

Blocks per game

  • Tyrell Harrison (Brisbane Bullets)/Ariel Hukporti (Melbourne United) – 4
  • Kyrin Galloway (Adelaide 36ers)/Mangok Mathiang (NZ Breakers)/Jordan Hunter (Sydney Kings) – 2
  • 16 players – 1

Harrison continued to use his height to his advantage and protect the paint for Brisbane. Although Adelaide got off to a hot start and could find baskets at will in the opening quarter against the Bullets, Harrison clawed his way back into the game and protected the rim superbly, helping turn the tide and steer his side to victory.

Hukporti’s draft stock continued to rise after proving an effective interior defender for United in the team’s two wins over the weekend. He kicked things off with three swats against the Phoenix, before going to the next level with five blocks in the victory against Adelaide later in the round. Using his height and reach to his advantage, the talented youngster appears to be making the most of his strengths on a nightly basis.

The second Galloway on this list, Kyrin was a shining light on a tough weekend for Adelaide, contesting as many shots as possible despite a heavy number of field goal attempts from the opposition. Former Hawk Mangok Mathiang was excellent in his first game for New Zealand, taking full advantage of his 208cm frame to deter as many inside baskets from the opposition as possible, while Jordan Hunter was one of Sydney’s best defenders in the win.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments