THE National Basketball League (NBL) boasts some of the world’s premier talents, with a number of players catching the eye on a weekly basis.
Each round holds unique and engaging storylines, not only from a team perspective, but an individual one too.
In this new series, Rookie Me Central will highlight a few players to keep an eye on ahead of the weekend’s upcoming action.
Round 1 kicks off on Saturday night, and there are a fair few players to keep an eye on for various reasons, whether it be a return from injury or a new set of colours.
Alan Williams – SEM Phoenix
Williams is the Phoenix’s freshest big man, bringing a wealth of NBA experience to Australian shores as South East Melbourne work towards a return to the postseason. His rebounding talents are top-tier, while he has proven a handy scorer too. A big key for Williams’ success will be his ability to stay out of foul trouble, as it became a bit of an issue in the Phoenix’s preseason outings.
Derrick Walton Jr. – Sydney Kings
The Kings’ answer for Jaylen Adams‘ departure, Walton Jr. has Sydney’s camp excited ahead of the season opener. A crafty playmaker who can score the ball at a high clip too, the guard should fit Chase Buford‘s system well, and work well in tandem with reigning Finals MVP Xavier Cooks in pick and roll situations. He looms as a key factor in Sydney’s quest to claim consecutive titles.
Rayan Rupert – New Zealand Breakers
Arguably the hype player of the Blitz preseason tournament, Rupert caught the eye of fans and experts around the country. The Next Star looks to have a seriously deep bag on the offensive end, providing a spark off the bench in both of his warm-up outings, and will likely have a massive opportunity to boost his NBA Draft stock, a goal that starts in New Zealand’s first match on Sunday.
Aron Baynes – Brisbane Bullets
The biggest signing of the offseason, there has been plenty of hype surrounding Baynes’ return to Australian basketball heading into the season’s commencement. One of the nation’s favourite basketball sons, Baynes has overcome a career-threatening injury to instantly launch Brisbane into contention, so the Bullets’ first match will give a glimpse of how his pick-and-pop style of play will fit in with the likes of Nathan Sobey and Tyler Johnson.
With the recent injury to rising star Ariel Hukporti, the offseason addition of Humphries becomes even more crucial. The big man will shoulder the frontcourt load for United, and has shown the capability to be one of the most dominant fives in the competition, but has struggled with injury in recent years. Melbourne’s season opener will show exactly how Humphries fits into United’s ‘play above the glass’ style of play that has served them so well.
The MVP of the Blitz preseason tournament, McVeigh is shaping up for his best season at NBL level. With the departure of Josh Adams, there are more shots up for grabs for the JackJumpers, and McVeigh looks to be the man to fill that void. A damaging power forward with a serious arsenal, McVeigh showed in the Blitz that he can score at a rapid rate, and really hurt the opposition in and around the key. Expect the ball to find its way into his hands a lot more on Saturday evening.