NBL | Next Star Watch – Round 12

THERE was plenty of anticipation surrounding the National Basketball League (NBL)’s 2023/24 season for many reasons, including the performances of some seriously talented youngsters.

Through the NBL’s Next Stars program, some of the best prospects in the world have joined Australia’s premier basketball competition in a bid to further their chances of selection at the NBA Draft.

Eight Next Stars will be suiting up this season in an exciting development to the league on the global stage.

Though the quick nature between Round 12 and Round 13 meant the latter has already got underway, we take a look back at how the players fared in the former.

Trentyn FlowersAdelaide 36ers

Though he retained his spot in the starting lineup for Round 12, Flowers had little-to-no impact in against the Bullets as he spent just seven and a half minutes on the court. In that time he only produced the one assist and one steal, not putting up a shot as the 36ers would go on to win by seven points, 95-88.

Rocco ZikarskyBrisbane Bullets

In the same game as above, Zikarsky came off the bench and gained almost nine minutes on the court, finishing with two points, three rebounds and two blocks. His only two points came from free throws however, as he missed his three chances from the field. Defensively though he had his moments with the couple of denials.

In the 10-point loss to the Breakers, Zikarsky had far more impact, shooting seven points – two from six from the field – and pulling in four rebounds. Two of those came on offence – showing he can get it down at both ends – but also producing another two huge blocks on defence.

Bobi KlintmanCairns Taipans

Klintman saved his best until last, almost single-handedly dragging the Taipans over the line at home against the Wildcats. In a superb 25-minute display, the Next Star talent piled on 24 points in 25 minutes, shooting six of eight from the field, including three of four from beyond the arc. He picked up seven rebounds – six defensive – one assist, three steals and one block to be the clear best-on for the losing team.

In the Taipans’ earlier win against South East Melbourne Phoenix, Klintman came off the bench for eight points in 16 and a half minutes, working hard on defence to pull in five boards. He also picked up an assist but had a turnover, in a solid without being outstanding performance.

AJ JohnsonIllawarra Hawks

Johnson had a quiet Round 12, only spending 13 minutes on court and scoring in the Hawks’ loss to Tasmania JackJumpers. He finished with two points and two assists – as well as one turnover – coming off the bench for 10 minutes, before having even less time against the Kings. In that game, Johnson had the three minutes and recorded a steal and a turnover, while missing his only scoring attempt.

Ariel HukportiMelbourne United

In his only game for Round 12 – a tight win over the Wildcats – the bigman came off the bench to be a massive force off the boards. In an incredible 18 minutes, Hukporti worked his way into great positions under the rim to rack up 12 rebounds. The most noticeable element of his game was his two-way running, getting to both ends and pulling in six offensive and six defensive rebounds to set up scoring opportunities for his side. Though he only had the one assist and three turnovers, he had two blocks and hit two of four from the field with six points.

Mantas RubstaviciusNew Zealand Breakers

It was a great weekend for the Lithuanian prospect who is really hitting his straps in the league. Following a 21-point performance in Round 11, Rubstavicius put up another two consistent efforts averaging 16 points across Round 12. In the upset win over the Kings by eight points, Rubstavicius recorded 17 points – nailing all his shots from inside the arc and two of five from outside it – as well as recording two assists and a rebound.

In the final game of the round against the Bullets, Rubstavicius notched up 15 points, two rebounds and two assists, nailing an important three of six from long-range as the Breakers’ starter spent another 26 minutes on court. He can produce some turnovers, but knows how to score.

Alexandre SarrPerth Wildcats

Though his numbers for Round 12 do not leap off the page, Sarr still pieced together a couple of handy performances coming off the bench for the Wildcats. In the narrow loss to Melbourne United, Sarr put up five points, three rebounds and one block in 14 minutes, though only shot at 28 per cent from the field (two from seven).

In the win over Cairns, Sarr had similar time on the court – 15 minutes – but found the looks better shooting at 50 per cent (four from eight) as he amassed 11 points. More impressively was his ability to get it done at both ends with seven rebounds – five defensive – while also picking up three assists and a block.

Alex TooheySydney Kings

Lining up in the starting five yet again, Toohey was Sydney’s best in a forgettable loss to the Breakers. He was efficient from the field, shooting four of eight – including three of four from two-point range – then worked hard on defence. He had two blocks to complement a team-high seven rebounds, six of which came off the defensive boards. Toohey consistently forced himself to the line and nailed six of seven from the charity stripe.

It was a different story for Toohey in the loss to Illawarra, as he only recorded the two points – one of four from the field – three rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes. It was symbolic of the Kings in the contest, as Sam Froling and the Hawks took control to grind out a 94-90 upset victory.

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