Photo credit: Render Creative NZ
Each week during free agency we’ll take a look at all the latest news and signings, along with the whispers and rumours as all 11 Sal’s NBL teams build their roster for the 2024 season.
While the opening week of activity was relatively quiet it belonged to the Steelformers Taranaki Airs with two big player signings, while the Bulls made a surprising announcement regarding their head coaching position.
Steelformers Taranaki Airs: The Sal’s NBL announced just two signings through the opening week of free agency and both belong to ‘new look’ Airs. Carlin Davison is set to continue his time with his home-based Sal’s NBL team, while young Tall Black Flynn Cameron is a major get for the new owners of the Airs. With Boomers and Australian NBL legend Sam McKinnon signed as coach, the Airs wasted no time in bringing the athletic Davison back for another season. The young showstopper is currently plying his trade with the NZ Breakers and developing his craft. Having joined mid-season in 2023 for the last nine games of the season after spending time in the United States, Davison finished the season with averages of 11.2 points at 53.8%, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while looking like a more polished player on both ends of the court. Cameron, a member Tall Blacks at the 2023 World Cup following a promising collegiate career in the United States, has gone on to look the goods in his debut ANBL season with Melbourne United. The 196cm guard is averaging 4.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, which includes averages of 12 points and 6 rebounds in his last two games with the ladder leaders
Franklin Bulls: Not a signing, but it is now confirmed 2023 coach Dan Sokolovsky will not be returning to The Stockyard. Widely seen as a huge blow to the Bulls, it also means the Pukekohe-based team will start season 2024 with their fifth coach in five Sal’s NBL campaigns. Sokolovsky was offered the Bulls role for 2024 but declined and all signs point to the Bulls looking to bring in an overseas talent to take charge of a programme that is looking to build upon its most successful season ever.
NBS Nelson Giants: After just one season with the Franklin Bulls, Dan Fotu is rumoured to be a Giants player in 2024. The whispers on Fotu’s move have been building since free agency opened with the Giants believed to be nearing an official announcement. This signing would plug a hole in the front line that has proved problematic for the G-men in recent years. And as expected, favourite son Sam Dempster will also be back for the Giants
Auckland Tuatara: Auckland are expected to re-sign Rob Loe and confirmation shouldn’t be too far away with the 2023 Sal’s NBL MVP returning to New Zealand last week following a stint with Melbourne United in the ANBL as their nominated injury replacement player. As the competition’s premier big man bringing him back is job one for the franchise, but the next task for the Tuatara will be building a team around him. Could we see the return of Chris Johnson in 2024?
Wellington Saints: Word is growing that the Saints are about to sign a new coach to replace the outgoing Troy McLean. During the first week of free agency the coaching change has moved from a mild whisper to a strong one. Will the Saints look to bring in leader who is familiar with the league, or look farther afield to again find success in the postseason?
Taylor Hawke’s Bay Hawks: The Hawks are also on the lookout for a new coach after recently parting ways with Everard Bartlett. Watch this space, the strong whisper is an announcement isn’t too far away as the playing roster is expected to be formed with the input of the next man in charge.
Taylor Hawke’s Bay Hawks: Staying on the departure side of things at the Hawks, Ethan Rusbatch is on the market and is expected to have several teams keen to talk with him. Both Rusbatch and Derone Raukawa are tipped to be in new colours next season after parting ways with the Hawks following a heart breaking loss in the 2023 Final 6.
Southland Sharks: Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape is being linked to teams on the North Island and is expected to be in new colours in 2024 following a injury plagued 2023 season down south
Steelformers Taranaki Airs: Off the back of announcing the signing of Flynn Cameron, it’s believed the Airs could soon announce brother, Tobias. The older Cameron brother was a mid-season recruit for the Airs in 2023 and immediately found his feet at the pro level with accurate shooting from deep combined with solid defense. It’s also believed the Airs are the front runners to retain the services of centre Anzac Rissetto, one of the most brusing post presences in the competition.
Wellington Saints: The Wellington Saints may face a battle to keep Tom Vodanovich with a number of teams believed to be enquiring about the forward’s services for 2024. Vodanovich is one of the competition’s premier forwards and will have no shortage of suitors. Could Tommy V be on the move?
Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams: There was some initial talk of Kaia Isaac being approached to leave the Rams, but we may have to scratch that one. While Isaac has been a name on the contact list of a few teams, the talented guard is fully expected to stay with the Rams and continue his rapid development under coach Judd Flavell following an off-season spent on the wider training squad of the New Zealand Breakers.