10 Things We Learned from Round 1

Photo Credit: Masanori Udagawa/Photo Wellington

History Was Made

On the court, history was made when the Whai men’s team finally hit the national stage. A great first-up crowd packed into Mercury Bay Park for a Thursday night clash against the Hawks, with the Whai taking a 91-70 win. In a sign of things to come in one of New Zealand’s fastest growing regions, more than a thousand people arrived for the earlier Rapid League game, while the main game attracted over 1500.

Sam Froling Is A Handful

Lots of talk about Taranaki’s star recruit Sam Froling and his MVP chances this season. The big Australian didn’t take long to show his class with a 29-point and 14-rebound opening round performance against the Jets. A match-up with 2023 MVP, Rob Loe, is coming up next.

Jets Must Turn Harrison Green

Yes, the Manawatu Jets have Troy Baxter Jnr coming, and they may even get James Moors at some stage but based on what we saw last Saturday night against the Airs, the team-in-green need Tyrell Harrison. The big Kiwi delivered 16 points and 24 rebounds first up, but word is he will only play a max of four games before returning to Australia and an awaiting NBL1 contract. The Jets must get creative here and find their best level of ‘Kiwi influence’ to retain Harrison. A spot in the finals may depend on it.

The Saints Are Back

After two early finals exits in 2022 and 2023, the Saints once again look like a force to be reckoned with. Star recruit Hyrum Harris lit up the capital as the Saints dismantled the Tuatara to the tune of 30 points, winning 110-80. Though the Aucklanders were missing a few players, let’s not forget the Saints went in without Izayah Le’afa, Yuat Alok and Malik Benlevi.

Innovation Success

The opening round of the Sal’s NBL season saw the League launch weekly Wednesday night games on TikTok and the introduction of Sky Broadband Rapid League, these innovations further elevate NZ basketball to the forefront of being a noted innovator. Both had a successful launch receiving wide media interest in New Zealand and internationally.

Slippery Eel Sparks Nuggets

The introduction of Rapid League is pushing teams to think carefully about the role certain players will play this season, and there was no better example of that than Matthew Bardsley at the Nuggets. After blowing out the cobwebs in the early game, the Slippery Eel dropped 17 points off the bench in the Sal’s NBL, including the basket that pushed the contest into overtime.

Kids Rule The Sal’s NBL

The sights and sounds of the opening round had a common theme across the six games – there were kids everywhere. More than 12,000 fans packed stadiums in the opening round with the league’s younger demographic on display everywhere, including three sell outs. The youngest fans of the League continue to flock to the game, especially enjoying their time after games when the fans mix with the players on court getting to feel what its like on the big stage under the bright lights.

Youth Movement Arrives

The crowd isn't the only place where the next generation is enjoying itself at basketball games. Across the Sky Broadband Rapid League and Sal’s NBL there was a real flavour of youth on display in R1. Mark these Kiwi names down – Nick Davidson (Giants), Nico Hill (Airs) and Troy Plumtree (Saints). As for the young imports, you can’t go past Ben Henshall (Nuggets), his game-high 21pts in an overtime win deserved all the headlines it received.

Injuries Hit Saints and Jets

A few headaches for the Saints and Jets this week with Lat Mayen (Saints – shoulder) and Jasper Rentoy (Jets – knee) both going down in the opening round. For Rentoy it was a season-ending blow and surgery is required. The Jets will now need to move quickly and find a point guard. A call to proven Sal’s NBL stars Jeremy Kendall or Kyle Adnam isn’t too far-fetched. While closer to home, where exactly is Pafe Moimosea?  

Free Throw Failures

One blight across the opening round was the poor free throw shooting, and the lack of conversion changed the results of more than one game across the opening round. The Saints and Bulls were really the only teams with an acceptable clip, every other team was under the brightline of 70%: 

Saints: 85% (23/27)

Bulls: 76% (13/17)

Jets: 69% (18/26)

Airs: 65% (13/20)

Giants: 62% (32/52) over two games

Rams: 61% (11/18)

Tuatara: 57% (8/14)

Whai: 56% (13/23)

Hawks: 52% (11/21)

Nuggets: 50% (12/24)

Sharks:  50% (9/18)


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