NBL | Ones to Watch – Round 17

ROUND 17 of the National Basketball League (NBL)’s 2023/24 season kicked off on Thursday night, igniting what should be an exciting weekend of action.

The amount of games remaining until the standings are sealed continues to decrease, with each matchup bringing a significant level of importance for each team’s postseason aspirations. Remarkable, every side can still make finals from here, so there is plenty to keep an eye on.

Thursday night saw a double-header yield surprising results, with the main shock coming in the form of a stunning SEM Phoenix victory over the Sydney Kings, while the Illawarra Hawks bounced back in style with a win over the Perth Wildcats in another upset.

The action is set to roll on through the weekend, with six more games slated from Friday night to Sunday afternoon.

With that in mind, Rookie Me Central will continue its weekly series of highlighting some key players worth keeping an eye on this weekend.

Jo Lual-AcuilMelbourne United

It is a welcome return for Lual-Acuil into Melbourne’s lineup for Round 17, with the team struggling during the absence of their star big and his fellow bookend in Shea Ili. Prior to his injury, Lual-Acuil was not showing the same form that got him onto the All-NBL First Team just a couple of seasons ago. Everyone in the league knows what he is capable of, both as a scorer and a shot blocker, and it goes a long way towards getting Melbourne to victory each game. Expect him to be fired up as United aim to defend top spot in the standings in the final weeks of the fixture.

Mitch Creek – SEM Phoenix

The Phoenix gave the NBL world a shock on Thursday night when they handed the reigning champions a stunning upset in the first match of the round. South East Melbourne was severely undermanned when it defeated the Kings, and Creek was a big part of that success. The star forward had 25 points in the first half alone as the Phoenix stormed out of the gates in emphatic fashion with 36 points in the first term. He finished the game with 31 points and 10 rebounds, and will be crucial to his team’s chances against the Wildcats.

Alexandre Sarr – Perth Wildcats

The Wildcats were stunned by the Hawks on Thursday as well, putting an end to Perth’s impressive winning streak. One of the biggest storylines coming into the week’s play was the return of Sarr, who missed the last couple of weeks with an injury. The potential number-one pick in the 2024 NBA Draft has gathered plenty of attention during his time in the league, and although he was quiet against Illawarra on Thursday, his minutes should increase after playing just six in that game.

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