NBL | Next Star Watch – Round 18

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 18 of the NBL saw some lower statistics posted by a few of the Next Stars, namely due to a lack of court time. However, a number of talented youngsters still managed to make an impact in limited minutes.

Trentyn FlowersAdelaide 36ers

Flowers did not see any court time over the weekend and is still looking to force his way into the rotation. Given the 36ers are in form at the moment, it may prove a tall order.

Rocco ZikarskyBrisbane Bullets

Zikarsky and the Bullets fell to the Hawks on Saturday evening, and the cult hero found himself on the wrong end of the highlights reel. The 17-year-old jumped up to contest a barnstorming AJ Johnson on the drive, but Zikasky’s fellow Next Star was too powerful, and the big man found himself posterized. It was an unfortunate moment for Zikarsky, but he still managed five points in five minutes of court time.

Bobi KlintmanCairns Taipans

Klintman continues to return from the concussion symptoms that have hindered him from playing at full strength in recent weeks. However, he did hit the court for eight minutes of playing time against the JackJumpers, adding a pair of rebounds as Cairns fell to Tasmania. The Taipans will be eager to get the talented youngster back on the court as soon as possible as their season winds to a close.

AJ JohnsonIllawarra Hawks

As mentioned above, Johnson delivered arguably the dunk of the year in a mesmerising display of the raw athletic talent he possesses. Taking on the tallest player in the league, the guard exploded down the lane, rising high and using his momentum to thunder down a jam that sent shockwaves around the league. While it was his only made field goal in five minutes of action, they don’t come any better than that.

Ariel HukportiMelbourne United

As expected, Hukporti was removed from the starting lineup and sent to the bench by head coach Dean Vickerman, largely due to the impressive work of star tall Jo Lual-Acuil last round. However, the German Next Star was still one of the most impressive performers in the win over South East Melbourne. With the Phoenix missing their three best players, their offence was not exactly firing on all cylinders, and Hukporti took advantage of that. The big man pulled down 10 rebounds to go with six points in an eye-catching outing, and played the second-most minutes for Melbourne at 21.

Mantas RubstaviciusNew Zealand Breakers

Rubstavicius was forced to step up on the offensive end after the Breakers lost Anthony Lamb to an Achilles injury in the first quarter. New Zealand was taking on the Wildcats, and the loss of Lamb was immense in the context of the game, but the team’s Next Star was excellent in filling the void on the scoring front to help lead the Breakers to one of their best wins of the 2023/24 season. Rubstavicius added 10 points on 4/5 shooting from the field and was a constant threat with ball in hand. He also showed the range he possesses with two made three-pointers on two attempts in a perfect display of long-distance shooting.

Alexandre SarrPerth Wildcats

In that same contest, Sarr was only given seven minutes of court time, with the Wildcats opting to preserve the potential number-one NBA Draft pick. The star forward was only able to add a single rebound on the stats sheet, but always looks dangerous when on the court, and still contested a few shots at the rim and affected the miss.

Alex TooheySydney Kings

Toohey remained in the starting lineup, but was given just 10 minutes of court time with the Kings opting to give the minutes to the likes of DJ Hogg and Kouat Noi. However, the Next Star was still able to post two points and two rebounds, with the blueprint of his versatile game still on display. Sydney also suffered a loss to the 36ers, so the team could look to increase Toohey’s minutes in an attempt to switch things up.

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