NBL | Next Star Watch – Round 17

ONE of the biggest talking points throughout the 2023/24 National Basketball League (NBL) season has been the performances of the competition’s Next Stars.

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 have been plying their trade in the NBL, and have been delivering must-see basketball on a weekly basis.

Round 17 saw some excellent performances from some of the league’s best and brightest, looking to make their mark in the final weeks of season 2023/24.

Trentyn FlowersAdelaide 36ers

Flowers returned from a knee injury over the weekend, and while his court time was extremely limited, it was still promising to see him on the court. He had just under two minutes of game time, and delivered three points (1-1 FG, 1-2 FT) to go with two rebounds, and should see more action in the coming weeks after getting through the match unscathed.

Rocco ZikarskyBrisbane Bullets

Zikarsky also had a reasonably quiet weekend, proving another victim of underwhelming playing time. He had just five minutes on the court, and produced two points and three rebounds. The ripping form of Tyrell Harrison has kept Zikarsky on the sidelines, but he still had glimpses of the potential he possesses in small moments throughout the match.

Bobi KlintmanCairns Taipans

Klintman missed for the second week in a row, having been ruled out last weekend with a bout of the flu. With just two weeks remaining, the Taipans will be eager to get him back into their rotation as soon as possible given how strong his campaign has been.

AJ JohnsonIllawarra Hawks

In a recurring theme for Round 17, Johnson was not given much opportunity throughout Illawarra’s two wins over the weekend. In the first match, which was a big win over the Wildcats, he had two rebounds in five minutes of court time, missing his only field goal attempt. Johnson was not given any minutes a couple of days later in a tense victory against the Wildcats, but will be hopeful to re-enter the rotation in the coming weeks.

Ariel HukportiMelbourne United

Despite the return of Jo Lual-Acuil, Hukporti retained his spot in the starting lineup, and while his star teammate delivered some eye-catching numbers, the Next Star’s performance was still important. Against the Bullets, he had four points (2/7 FG), seven assists, one steal and two steals, setting strong picks and complimenting his teammates well. Although Melbourne lost to the reigning champions on Sunday, Hukporti was strong enough with nine points (3/6 FG), five rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 20 minutes and playing his role extremely well.

Mantas RubstaviciusNew Zealand Breakers

The talented scorer found his groove as the round went on, delivering a standout performance in the second of New Zealand’s two games. In the win over the JackJumpers, Rubstavicius struggled to find the aggression that serves him well, scoring just six points on 3/7 shooting from the field.

However, he had a massive impact offensively a couple of days later in the loss to the Hawks. Rubstavicius posted 17 points, nailing six shots on eight attempts and looking much more willing to attack and create his own shot, which has been his biggest strength this season.

Alexandre SarrPerth Wildcats

Sarr returned for the Wildcats after missing the last couple of weeks with injury, and showed just what he is capable of at full health. Although his minutes were limited in his first game back, Sarr still showed his raw athletic profile with a pair of blocks in six minutes of court time.

However, his role increased in Perth’s second game of the round, a win over the Phoenix. In that match, Sarr delivered 18 points on 6/8 shooting, but the performance was headlined by a whopping five blocks, which would have been a massive positive to recruiters around the globe.

Alex TooheySydney Kings

Once again, Toohey’s numbers rarely reflect his impact on the court, and that importance is shown by his constant presence in the starting lineup. Although he managed four points against the Phoenix and three points against United, he runs his passing lane, stays open when the defence collapses and rotates extremely well on the defensive end. He is the type of player that scouts favour as he does what is required for his team, which is a key trait at the top level.

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