NBL | Next Star Watch – Round 14

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.

Round 14 saw some season-best performances from some of the league’s young guns, many of whom are making a big impact for their respective sides.

Trentyn FlowersAdelaide 36ers

During Adelaide’s shock upset over the ladder-leaders, Flowers did not get any playing time as the 36ers looked towards a more experienced lineup. He will need to work his way back into the rotation after some underwhelming performances in recent weeks.

Rocco ZikarskyBrisbane Bullets

The Bullets pulled off an upset win over the reigning champions on Sunday afternoon, and Zikarsky’s impact in the game was undeniable. He played 10 minutes and stuffed the stat sheet in one of his most promising performances since joining the NBL.

The talented big man poured in six points and two rebounds, but it was his work protecting the paint that caught the eye. Zikarsky picked up four blocks, all of which required impeccable reach and timing.

The Kings looked to expose the youngster by getting open out the back, but Zikarsky recovered to block three lay-ups and an alley-oop attempt in an excellent defensive display.

Bobi KlintmanCairns Taipans

In a 17-point loss at the hands of the JackJumpers on Saturday evening, Klintman was one of Cairns’ best coming off the bench. Although no longer in the starting lineup, the young forward was still given 24 minutes of action, and rewarded Adam Forde and the coaching staff with a strong offensive showing.

Klintman poured in 16 points and five rebounds and was quite accurate when shooting the ball, making six shots on nine attempts. It is still evident that the Taipans can turn to their Next Star when in need of some offence, and he continues to show his natural scoring ability each game.

AJ JohnsonIllawarra Hawks

It was a barnstorming win for the Hawks on Friday night, starting their weekend in perfect fashion with a 28-point win over the Phoenix, and Johnson was one of many contributors for the winning side. The forward came off the bench, and rode the momentum of the rest of his team to prove electric on the offensive end.

In 15 minutes of court time, Johnson made all three of his attempts from behind the arc, en route to 11 points for the match. Adelaide was passing the ball superbly, and Johnson moved well around the arc to get himself free, and his sharpshooting made the opposition pay.

Ariel HukportiMelbourne United

The second-year big man has stepped up his output in recent weeks, and that trend continued in the 16-point win over the Kings on Thursday night. During 16 minutes of court time, Hukporti poured in 10 points (5/6 FG) to go with six rebounds and two assists in an important showing off the bench.

He backed it up a couple of days later, and although Melbourne fell in stunning fashion to the 36ers, Hukporti was still impressive. The big man had another 10 points, four points, two assists and a steal, but this time, he recorded three blocks in an excellent defensive display.

Mantas RubstaviciusNew Zealand Breakers

It was a quiet weekend for Rubstavicius in comparison to previous week, putting an end to a magnificent scoring run from the forward. He struggled with his accuracy in the six-point loss to the Wildcats on Sunday, making three shots on nine attempts for eight points, two rebounds and two assists, and will be looking to bounce back on Friday night against United.

Alexandre SarrPerth Wildcats

After sustaining a hip injury against the 36ers the week before, Sarr missed the win over the Breakers on Sunday, and is expected to be sidelined again this weekend.

Alex TooheySydney Kings

Toohey was moved to the bench over the course of the New Year period, but has still shown the skillset he possesses. The forward kicked things off with five points and four rebounds in the loss to United, and then followed it up with eight points and six rebounds against the Bullets, and is still one of the most versatile youngsters in the league.

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