Free Agency Festivities: Teams active during Christmas Holidays

Photo credit: Monica Toretto

The Festive season left a bevy pressies under the tree for fans of teams across the Sal’s NBL as teams continue to take shape. Some huge names celebrated the New Year with contract signings zipping in from across the country. Some teams are taking shape while others have yet to dip a toe into the free agent frenzy but with less than 12 weeks to season 2024 tip the action time is of the essence to lock down foundations for the season to come.  

Confirmed Signings 

Ben Henshall 

The Otago Nuggets connection with the Perth Wildcats continues to provide a talent pipeline, this time with the talented 19 year old Ben Henshall. The WA native is plying his trade in Perth after 2 years at the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence where he averaged 18 points and 5 assists. An all around talent who can fill it up quickly, his signing sets a young foundation in the backcourt by pairing Henshall with Dontae Russo-Nance to put the rest of the league on notice that the next generation of hooper is ready for the spotlight now!  

Sam Mennenga 

A major signing for the Whai with the Davidson product retuning to home shores to play in the Sal’s NBL. Strong ties with coach Matt Lacey proved vital in gaining the signature of the big man, who is likely to return from his current stint with the Cairns Taipans in great shape and ready to lead the Whai. Make no mistake, Mennenga was priority number one for the Whai and is the perfect player to build a competitive team around. 

Te Tuhi Lewis 

The dynamic young guard is on the move, departing the Bulls to join the Whai where he will be looking to take the next steps in his Sal’s NBL career. Lewis has shown glimpses of his competitiveness and thirst to be in the thick of things which will be helpful to the first-year franchise. The Whai have been very active in recent weeks, snaring quite a few signatures and Lewis will be in the rotation and likely to figure heavily in the Sky Broadband Rapid League, but don’t be surprised if he continues to carve out bigger minutes as his play grows to match his confidence. 

Jayden Bezzant 

Officially the first ever player signing for the Whai, Bezzant’s move away from the Bulls had been widely tipped since free agency opened. Bezzant’s numbers declined in 2023 as his role shifted to one off the bench with the Bulls so it’s not surprising to see him seek an opportunity with greater responsibility and once the opportunity to play closer to home with the Whai it seems things escalated quickly giving the Whai a great local foundation at the point guard position.  

Dom Kelman-Poto 

DKP is sticking with the Bulls for 2024 and will be looking to carve out a bigger role than he was given in 2023. In fantastic shape after taking his opportunities with the Breakers during the current ANBL season, Kelman-Poto will be a key player for the Bulls, especially under the basket where he continues to be one of the most efficient players in the League. Don’t be surprised if international 3x3 opportunities beckon at some stage, but for now DKP will be running with the Bulls in Franklin. 

Jordan Hunt 

The Bulls frontcourt continues to reshape itself with the addition of the rim running Hunt after two seasons in Hawke’s Bay.  His skillset as a pick and pop big who can run transition defenses off the floor looks to be a great fit with Sam Timmins and DKP as the trio will be difficult to keep pace with over the course of the season. Currently playing in England he will join the Bulls in great shape looking to do his part to bring the Bulls back to the Final 6.   

Jackson Stent 

The rising forward returns to the Property Brokers Manawatu Jets for another season where it’s expected he’ll continue to provide strength and depth off the bench. The Jets are putting together a roster with real length, and Stent knows the role he’ll be asked to play by coach Natu Taufale. As he continues to build his game, and deliver more from range with his shooting, Stent will be an important piece for the Jets in the Sal’s NBL and in the Sky Broadband Rapid League.  

Reuben Fitzgerald 

Another returning piece for the Tuatara, Fitzgerald will again back up the experienced starters for the Aucklanders. With the introduction of Rapid League, Fitzgerald is a player set to capitalise and should develop quickly in the fast-paced game where his strength and long-range shooting will no doubt come to the fore. 

Ben Ayre 

The first import for the Mills Albert Wellington Saints has landed and is expected to play a huge role for the 12-time champs. Creative and competitive, Ayre (South-East Melbourne Phoenix, ANBL) will likely be handed the keys to the offence, but also has the ability to play off the ball. Known for his shooting and tight defence, Ayre will be keen to help the Saints push the tempo. It’s the second straight season the Saints have snared a guard from the Phoenix (Kyle Adnam in 2023) with expectations of a deeper finals run coming in 2024. 

Simon Lafaele 

Another youngster returning to the Jets, Lafaele will be hoping to take his opportunities and could be one to watch through the Rapid League as his development progresses. Injuries hampered his 2023 season in a major way, but some promising signs at the 2023 3X3 Cup give hope that he’s back to full health and ready for a big 2024 season. 

Marcale Lotts 

The Southland Sharks have landed their first import with the 29-year-old out of New Orleans set to call the deep south home in 2024. Import selection has been a bit hit and miss for the Sharks over the last two years, so they will be hoping Lotts finds his feet quickly and fits into coach Guy Molloy’s system and plans. At 201cm, Lotts looks athletic and has solid international experience, most recently in Spain and Georgia.  

Sam Timmins 

This one was fully expected – Sam Timmins is headed to The Stockyard and will be in Bulls colours. After experiencing a bevy of success and accomplishments at the Night n Day Otago Nuggets, including the 2022 championship, Slammin’ Sam is returning to the team he led during the 2020 Showdown. It’s a major get for the Bulls, who have experienced a bit of roster churn, and his high-low pairing with Dom Kelman-Poto and Jordan Hunt will be vitally important. His signing vitally strengthens the Bulls while leaving a headache for fellow finals hopeful Otago to deal with. 

Dontae Russo-Nance 

The relationship between the Nuggets and Perth Wildcats goes from strength to strength with rising star Russo-Nance returning to the Sal’s NBL where he’ll play a prominent role with the southerners. Already a proven performer, the teenager is finding his way in the ANBL as a developmental player, but he’ll be excited for the minutes coming his way back home. Despite his age, Russo-Nance is mature beyond his years and is set for a massive season back on home soil. 

Chris McIntosh 

Part of the furniture at the Tuatara, McIntosh plays an important role off the bench and adds considerable firepower from range. The talented 3X3 player is likely to play big minutes in Rapid League where his talent in an up-tempo environment will come to the fore. Crafty and a solid team player, McIntosh will hit the season running and knows coach Aaron Young’s system back to front. 

De’Riante Jenkins 

The Jets have moved quickly to land their three imports for the 2024 Sal’s NBL season. Jenkins, a 198cm shooting guard is likely to play a number of roles for the Jets and will look to form a lethal partnership with Mustapha Heron. A South Carolina native, Jenkins was a basketball and football star at High School, notably a standout quarterback before turning his focus totally to basketball. After turning down offers at Clemson, South Carolina and Tennessee, Jenkins attended VCU and delivered solid numbers across 114 games. Internationally, Jenkins has played in Sweden, Italy and the Czech Republic and looks an outstanding pick-up for the Jets. 

Mustapha Heron 

Heron returns for the Jets after posting 21.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 2023. An imposing playmaker, Heron scored at a 47.1% clip last season, including 41.6% from beyond the arc. Athletic and a real showman, the green army loved watching Heron last season and will be excited by this news. The pairing with De’Riante Jenkins could be one to watch and might just be the cornerstone to the Jets making a long overdue run for the playoffs.    

Jack Andrew 

Big Jack’s back for the Nuggets and is set for an expanded role with Sam Timmins on the move to the Bulls. Currently in his second season with the Perth Wildcats, Andrew continues to learn his craft and is set for a breakout season with he Nuggets where he should see a big uptick in minutes as he likely shifts to the starting lineup with the departure of Timmins. 

Angus McWilliam 

Another returning Kiwi, the former 209cm Junior Tall Black out of Christchurch has been scooped up by coach Natu Taufale. Currently playing in Canada, McWilliam is yet another player set to add considerable length to the Jets. 

Walter Brown 

The Rams young gun is back for 2024 and set to again be a prominent player for coach Judd Flavell. The rise of Brown in recent years has been one of the great success stories of the Sal’s NBL and has led to an ongoing gig in the ANBL with the Tasmania Jack Jumpers. The 2023 Youth Player of the Year is a strong two-way player and is often tasked with stopping some of the best offensive players in the League. A major signing for the current champs look for Brown to extend his game as he further develops his skillset. 

Scott Telfer 

The versatile allrounder is on the move from the Airs and will be swimming in the Shark Tank in 2024. Coach Guy Molloy is a fan of Telfer’s competitiveness and hard-nosed approached at the defensive end, but also his ability to spread the floor with a preference for corner threes. It’s believed the Sharks nearly landed Telfer last season, so this appears to be a signature they have worked on for a while. Expect Telfer to play a key role off the bench for the Sharks and also a leading role in the Rapid League where he will be encouraged to play with the flair and energy that made him a fan favourite in Taranaki.  

Hot Whispers 

Taki Fahrensohn  

The young Kiwi last played with the Auckland Tuatara in 2022 and is believed to be heading back to the Sal’s NBL, but all reports have him suiting up in different colours and likely based on the South Island. 

Alex McNaught 

The young point guard has been involved in a tug-of-war between two teams with his signature being hotly pursued. Having been with the NBS Nelson Giants since the 2020 Showdown, it’s believed another team worked very hard to snare his services, but all reports over the last fortnight have McNaught sticking with the Giants for season number five. 

Izayah Le’Afa 

All roads are leading to Wellington for the Breakers guard where the Saints are hoping to land the local again. It’s unknown if Le’Afa will be available for the full season, but there was no shortage of suitors for his signature. If the Saints do land Le’Afa, it provides them with an exciting combination having already confirmed Ben Ayre already in the Capital. 

Nick Barrow 

The reliable forward is fully expected to be suiting up for the Tuatara again in 2024 and should be announced soon. Barrow could form a strong partnership with Chris McIntosh and Reuben Fitzgerald in the Rapid League, where a host of rising youngsters in Auckland will learn from the trio of experienced teammates. 

Mild Whispers

Denhym Brooke 

A few teams are thought to have reached out to Brooke to gauge his interest, but no firm decisions yet. With Hyrum Harris (Saints) and Ethan Rusbatch (Bulls) both exiting the Hawks, a bigger role might be available for Brooke at the Hawks and perhaps another season at Hawke’s Bay might be on the cards. 

Quintin Bailey 

News on Bailey has been very hard to come by, but it’s thought the Airs are very keen to retain him and ensure they have the strong forward in their rotation. While his ability at both ends of the floor is appealing, staying close to home has worked for both he and the Airs making a shift unlikely. 

Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape 

Still no word on where Leusogi-Ape will be in 2024, but it continues to look like he won’t be returning to the Sharks. A key role on the wing with the Hawks might be a nice fit given Ethan Rusbatch has moved to the Bulls, while the Tuatara and Whai might both make a play for him as well. 

Tohi Smith-Milner 

With Tom Vodanovich departing the Saints you can be assured a call or two has gone into Smith-Milner to ask about his intentions. The imposing forward has a strong connection with the Saints, and should he return from Australia it is likely it will be to play for the Saints under the direction of coach Zico Coronel, especially with a spot with Tall Blacks at the Olympic Qualifiers in the back of his mind.  


Form is temporarily not available. Please visit our contact page.