We’re less than three weeks away until the first game of the 2022 Sal’s NBL season and the free agency hot stove is starting to heat up!
With the second tier of free agency open, teams can sign import players and returning kiwis from overseas, leaving no shortage of excitement around player announcements. Since our last free agency update, we’ve had 27 players announced by teams for 2022 and we’re here to break it all down.
The Mike Pero Nelson Giants have been busy in recent weeks, re-signing a number of familiar faces and adding a talented youngster to the mix. Veteran Sam Dempster will suit up in his 14th season for the Giants, while Tom Ingham, Nic Trathen, Riley Bensemann and Alex McNaught will all join Dempster in returning for 2022. One of the Giants’ new additions is 6-foot-10 forward Jordan Schwalger, who most recently played in the NBL1 in Australia.
The Auckland Tuatara are thrilled with the addition of Tall Blacks forward Takiula Fahrensohn. Fahrensohn was a member of the Tall Blacks squad that went undefeated in the recent FIBA Asian World Cup Qualifiers in Manilla. He’s also coming off a solid pro campaign in Germany with Team Ehingen Urspring where he posted averages of 12.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists on 41.5 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three in 31 appearances.
Guard Sunday Dech will join the Canterbury Rams after last playing in the Sal’s NBL in 2019 with the Wellington Saints. Dech won the title with the Saints in 2019 and also has two Australian NBL titles to his name. The 28-year-old is coming off a career-year with the Adelaide 36ers, recording averages of 11.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 17 games.
The Rams also managed to secure the services of big-man Mike Karena, who returns to the team after last playing for them in 2019. He spent the 2020 season with the Giants and was a dominant force, averaging 17.5 points and 5.6 rebounds on 53.8 percent shooting. Karena projects to play a big role for the Rams in 2022, so he’s certainly someone worth keeping an eye on.
The Night ‘n Day Otago Nuggets signed Tall Blacks 3x3 guard Nikau McCullough and he’s already proved why he’s going to be a key cog in their backcourt, helping the Tall Blacks qualify for the FIBA 3x3 World Cup in June. McCullough moves down south from the Manawatu Jets, forming a potentially lethal two-man game with star centre Sam Timmins.
Mick Downer and the Taylor Bay Hawks have been busy re-signing some of their impact players, bringing back veterans Jarrod Kenny and Everard Bartlett, and talented forward Hyrum Harris. Bartlett won an NZ NBL title with the Hawks back in 2006 and is chasing another one to add to his collection. His leadership and veteran presence is invaluable for a Hawks team that narrowly missed out on glory last season.
In Kenny and Harris, the Hawks bring back two accomplished starters who have not only had tremendous success in the NZ NBL, but over in the Australian NBL with their respective teams, too. Kenny has posted averages of 3.6 points and 2.3 assists in 15 games with the Cairns Taipans, while Harris is putting up 4.2 points and 2.3 rebounds in his 16 outings with Adelaide.
The Wellington Saints have their sights firmly set on championship number 13, announcing their acquisition of Tall Black Jordan Ngatai. The Porirua native and four-time NZ NBL champion currently plays for the Cairns Taipans, and the Saints will be hoping that he can bring some of his 2020 form to the squad this season. Ngatai was named to the NZ NBL All-Star Five in 2020 with the Nuggets, tallying impressive averages of 18.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 17 games of action.
When it comes to NZ NBL titles, one of the names at the very top of the list is new EnviroNZ Franklin Bulls forward Leon Henry. Henry and his seven titles will join the Bulls for 2022, providing them with unmatched leadership and a championship mindset that will rub off on the players around him. On the court, Henry is a reliable scoring and rebounding option who often finds himself averaging double-digit scoring numbers. The 36-year-old’s defensive awareness and physical nature will almost certainly elevate the Bulls this season.
In addition to Henry, the Bulls also announced that Isaac Davidson will return for another season. Davidson signed a developmental contract with the New Zealand Breakers in 2020 and was recently promoted to the active roster for the 2021-22 season. The experience that he has gained over the past few years will add another layer to a Bulls team looking to compete for a playoff spot.
The clock is ticking for teams as they fill out their rosters heading into the 2022 Sal’s NBL season. The action tips-off on April 28 when the Mike Pero Nelson Giants host the Night ‘n Day Otago Nuggets. You can find the full schedule HERE.
Our free agency tracker can be found HERE.
Here’s a look at all the confirmed signings to date:
HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS