Photo credit: Andy MacDonald
Teams across the Sal’s NBL continue to look to outmaneuver one and other with teams continuing to take shape across the league, see below for the latest whispers being passed around the basketball landscape.
Tuatara: Tom Vodanovich will land in the big smoke after two seasons in Wellington to form a potent front line with Cam Gliddon and reigning MVP Rob Loe. The Aussie veteran Gliddon also returns to the Tuatara for a second consecutive season and when combined with the signing of Tommy V a talented, trusted and reliable front court has emerged for the back-to-back runners up. With multiple restricted roster spots and a talented local core this is a squad that will again be looking to make a deep run in the Final 6 as the Tuatara are once again looking like a force to be reckoned with.
Hyrum Harris: Not a signing, but another confirmed departure. This time a bombshell out of Hawke’s Bay with the Hawks announcing star Kiwi Hyrum Harris will not be returning to the Bay in 2024. A crowd favourite, Harris is being hotly pursued by several teams and it’s believed he may have settled on a destination. Those believed to be in contention are the Nuggets (Perth Wildcats connection), Whai and the Saints. That said, there probably isn’t a team that hasn’t put in a call. Or could we see Harris stay in Australia and work with the Wildcats during the ANBL off-season?
Jets: Following the signing of James Moors, the Jets continue to focus on young Kiwi stars with Lachlan Crate locked in for another season. Crate showed some good signs at times in season 2023 and was a standout member of NZ’s U17 team at the Asia Cup (silver medalists), where he also made the All-Star Five. With the introduction of the Sky Broadband Rapid League in 2024, the likes of Crate will burst onto the Sal’s NBL scene in a big way.
Sam Timmins: Slammin’ Sam Timmins is a name coming up regularly during free agency and it seems almost certain the big man will be on the move from the Nuggets. Multiple teams have shown interest in Timmins, and overseas opportunities may be on the radar as well. If Timmins does make a move from the 2021 champions, it could open the door to more minutes for Jack Andrew who is still being strongly linked with the club.
Isaac Davidson: The versatile swingman is expected to be back running with the Bulls in 2024. A big part of the team and the longest serving member at the stockyard, Davidson’s signature was never in doubt but bolsters a team looking to build on last season's success.
Tom Ingham: Much like Sam Dempster being a part of the furniture at the Giants, so too is Tom Ingham, who is expected to sign on for another season under coach Mike Fitchett. Following a serious injury in 2022, Ingham made progress throughout the 2023 season and will now be looking to find a higher level of consistency in 2024.
Marnie Dougall-Mita: Another player widely talked about since free agency opened, Dougall-Mita is unlikely to be going anywhere. It’s believed the Saints will lock down their sharpshooter for another season in the capital.
Liam Judd: Despite a bit of interest being shown from further north, Judd is expected to be back with the Jets in 2024. The young forward rapidly developed during the 2023 season, relishing increased opportunities playing for the team in green under coach Natu Taufale. Look for Judd to continue lifting his game and impact across next season.
Hawks: Still the only team without a coach, it’s warming up in the bay where the Hawks are expected to soon announce who will steer the ship into 2024. Hawks GM, Jarrod Kenny, has strong links into the Australian NBL and it is increasingly likely his team’s next coach will come from that league.
Tuatara: Chris McIntosh, Nick Barrow and Reuben Fitzgerald are all expected to return for another season with the Tuatara. The experienced trio have proven to be vital role players for the club over the last two seasons, and with the Sky Broadband Rapid League coming into the competition in 2024 this trio’s responsibilities and opportunity to influence the game will only increase.
Dan Fotu: A move from the Bulls to the Giants for Dan Fotu has been mentioned a couple of times over recent weeks, but it’s likely to be one of the biggest moves in free agency and is being closely monitored. This is a major move by the Giants and signals their intentions to get back into the playoff picture in 2024 after missing the Final 6 in 2023.
Ethan Rusbatch: Since free agency opened not a week has gone by without Ethan’s name being mentioned. It has been rumoured for some time that Rusbatch will be exiting the Hawks, and it now appears he may have found a new home. Nothing confirmed as of yet, but it is believed the Cantabrian will be staying on the north island.
Whai: Two names cropping up around the Whai are Derone Raukawa and Jayden Bezzant with both players having ties to the region where they first worked on their hoops skills. Either Kiwi would be an excellent signing for the league’s newest team but there is likely only space for one of the guards as they boast similar skillsets. Provided they can snare three quality imports, the Whai are looking like a team that will be instantly competitive. Elsewhere Pafe Momoisea continues to be linked to the club and there are rumours of a top-level kiwi big man being recruited to the team.
Rams: It’s been fairly quiet in Christchurch where the 2023 champions under coach Judd Flavell are working their way through a roster they hope will take them all the way to the top again. Four players Rams fans can expect to see back at Cowles Stadium are Taylor Britt, Max Darling, Walter Brown and Kaia Isaac. The quartet are thought to be confirmed and ready for a championship defence.
Anzac Rissetto: It’s believed a few teams have reached out to Rissetto, but it’s unlikely a move away from the Airs is going to occur. Currently playing with South-East Melbourne Phoenix in the Australian NBL, where new Airs coach Sam McKinnon is an assistant, Rissetto is likely to link back up with the Airs and hold down the centre position. The Airs have been one of the most active teams during free agency with Flynn Cameron, Tobias Cameron and Carlin Davison already locked in for 2024 and strong whispers of an Australian import perimeter playing having just signed on the dotted line.