NBL Next Stars: The league’s brightest young guns

IN recent seasons, the National Basketball League (NBL) has become one of the world’s premier avenues to greater pastures in the basketball world such as the NBA. The program has gathered some of the brightest young talents from not only Australia, but also from across the globe in recent seasons, with the Next Stars becoming a legitimate path to basketball greatness.

The Next Stars program was introduced prior to the 2018/19 season, and this decision was made after Terrance Ferguson was drafted from the Adelaide 36ers, opting to head to Australia instead of through the collegiate system in the United States. The players involved must be eligible for the NBA Draft.

The program picked up some serious traction ahead of the 2019/20 season, when projected top five pick RJ Hampton announced he was signing with the New Zealand Breakers as an NBL Next player. This buzz was further extended when one of the most hyped NBA prospects in the world in LaMelo Ball signed with the Illawarra Hawks, and suddenly all eyes were on the NBL.

The most recent NBL Next Star to hit the big time is Joshua Giddey, who was taken in the top 10 by the Oklahoma City Thunder, so the program now has the credentials to draw in some of the world’s biggest talents. Ahead of the 2021/22 season, there are a number of NBL Next Stars signed to the league.

Ousmane Dieng – New Zealand Breakers

Dieng enters the league as one of the most exciting young prospects in the world, projected by ESPN to go at number 11 in next year’s NBA draft. Dieng joins the Breakers from France’s highly respected INSEP Academy, which is responsible for the likes of Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, who both went onto successful careers in the NBA.

At 6’9″, Dieng has the ability to play both guard positions, which will make him a challenge for opposition teams to stop. He boasts impressive scoring ability and classy playmaking that will give his teammates plenty of open shots. Given he will be looking to maintain his high ranking for next season, Dieng will be one of the most watched NBL players in the upcoming season.

Makur Maker – Sydney Kings

Maker is the younger brother of former NBA top 10 draft pick Thon Maker, and has already made a name for himself around the world. The NBA seems to be calling out for athletic big men, and Maker fits this bill perfectly, with an impressive set of skills in his arsenal, and listed as a five star recruit.

At 6’11”, Maker will look to apply his skills to become a modern big man, which requires the player to not only score in the post and rebound, but pass the ball and potentially shoot from range. At just 20 years old, there is still plenty of upside for the young man.

Tom Digbeu – Brisbane Bullets

Much like Dieng, Digbeu hails from France, and has demonstrated his ability to play in tough leagues in the past. He spent time playing for Prienai in Lithuania, a competition that is regarded as one of the hardest to compete in, given it is the most popular sport in the country.

Digbeu is also one of ESPN’s top 100 prospects for the upcoming season, and will be looking to use his time in the NBL to push himself further up this list. A 6’5″ small forward, Digbeu has the ability to not only hit the scoreboard, but his rebounding ability is surprisingly damaging, given his height.

Picture credit: FIBA/247Sports

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