Photo credit: Roshysportfolio
The festive season is nearly upon us and teams across the Sal’s National Basketball League are celebrating in style with a bevy of announcements in the last week. While some big names have been locked down there is plenty of talent rumoured to be on the move meaning the 2024 season picture is far from complete.
Mitch McCarron: Been a few years since we’ve seen McCarron on our shores (2019 with the Sharks), but he’s on his way back to link up with the Airs in New Plymouth. This is a team that means business, the Airs aren’t mucking about and now have McCarron, Davison and the Cameron brothers locked in, and from all reports their next announcement is going to send shockwaves through the competition with a MVP level talent rumoured to be on the way.
Dan Fotu: The Nelson Giants have ‘officially’ announced what has been speculated for weeks. Dan Fotu has exited the Bulls and is heading to the South Island in a major coup for coach Mike Fitchett and the Giants' committed fanbase. We saw Fotu rise dramatically last season and he looks to be one of the players to watch in 2024. Massive signature for the Giants and a Kiwi centrepiece they build a frontcourt around.
Tom Vodanovich: For weeks Tommy V has been rumoured to be on the move and this big domino finally dropped with the Tuatara securing his services. Vodanovich played for the Auckland Huskies a few years back, so the surroundings are familiar to him, but this time he slides into a team already featuring Rob Loe and Cam Gliddon to form a topflight frontcourt. Once again this is going to be a team to watch as they chase a finish one spot higher than their runners-up finish of the last two seasons.
Hyrum Harris: We knew he was on the move, and we knew most teams had enquired about his services, but the race for Harris’ signature has been won by the Saints. A true competitor who is seemingly growing in stature each year, Harris is a great get for the 12-time champions. The task now is to put a quality roster around him, which of course we know the Saints are currently putting all their energy into.
Isaac Davidson: The Bulls entered the free agency fray last week with the announcement of Isaac Davidson returning for his fifth season. The local product is the longest-serving player in Pukekohe and is a reliable asset at both ends of the floor. The Bulls are featuring heavily in the ‘whispers’ department right now, so expect some more announcements coming out of the Stockyard shortly.
Jasper Rentoy: The Jets have secured the signature of the young Sydney Kings guard who also has NBL1 experience on his resume. A move to the Sal’s NBL represents a big opportunity for Rentoy and given the Jets are always on the lookout to add young talent that plays up-tempo basketball, Rentoy will be given every opportunity to excel.
Max Darling: No surprises here with the 2023 champions announcing Max Darling as the first signing for the new season. The Canterbury Rams and Darling fit hand in glove, and the Cantabrian crowds certainly love the entertainment the athletic forward brings to the court. Expect a few more familiar faces to be added by the Rams shortly, but this is a great way to start.
Brayden Inger: Another season in orange coming up for Inger with the versatile wing hoping for an injury-free season and a consistent run of form. We’ve seen just how damaging Inger can be and he looks like a perfect fit for coach Guy Molloy’s system. A quality start to free agency for the Sharks as they look to re-tool to re-enter the postseason in 2024.
Hawks: It’s been a tough few weeks for the Hawks with star power exiting, but it’s taken a positive turn with Sam Gruggen officially being named head coach. An experienced assistant coach in the Australian NBL, spending time with both the Sydney Kings and Cairns Taipans, Gruggen is well known for developing young talent and looks a nice fit for the Hawks as they look to re-load.
Ethan Rusbatch: One of the most talked about players from the opening of FA has been Rusbatch, with the shooting guard known to be on the move from the Hawks and looking for a new home. His signature has now been secured with Rusbatch headed to the Bulls, the same team he helped dismantle in an opening-round thriller earlier this year when he nailed a long-range triple to force overtime. His shooting and experience a boon for a team looking for leaders to support their new head coach as they chase consecutive finals berths.
Jayden Bezzant: Rumours continue to swirl that Bezzant is on the move from the Stockyard and all roads right now lead to Tauranga and a gig with the Whai. It’s home territory for Bezzant and an easy link to make, but this is a whisper that has moved from mild to hot over the last week.
Derone Raukawa: Staying with the Whai and yet again we are hearing Raukawa’s name being linked to the Whai. Again, like Bezzant, this is home territory for Raukawa and an easy link, while it’s one that is becoming increasingly likely his name has been associated with teams up and down the competition signaling a landing spot is yet to be confirmed.
Sam Timmins: Another player who has been a focal point of conversations, Timmins will almost certainly be in new colours in 2024. The championship-winning Nuggets centre looks bound for Auckland and given the Tuatara have Rob Loe, you can only assume the Bulls are making a play for the talented big. Or could we see Timmins prepared to travel a couple of hours down the road to Tauranga? Slammin’ Sam’s final destination should be known shortly.
Alex McNaught: The rising point guard has been the centre of a hot battle for his services with both the Tuatara and Giants thought to be in contention. McNaught has made Nelson his home since arriving on the scene under coach Fitchett at the 2020 Showdown. Exactly who is going to win the battle for ‘McNaughty’ to solidify a local core?
Sharks: With Inger locked in, there’s every chance we’ll be hearing a bit more from the Sharks in the weeks ahead with Ben Hall, Alonzo Burton and Tom Cowie all expected to return the Shark Tank.
Rams: Similar to the Sharks, with an opening signing complete (Darling) the Rams are now expected to move quickly and confirm the return of Walter Brown, Taylor Britt and Kaia Isaac as the foundation for a young and talented kiwi core.
Anzac Rissetto: For weeks now it’s been thought that Rissetto would be returning to the Airs in 2024, but the pendulum may have swung a bit with a number of teams making enquiries about the big man. Rissetto is currently in Australia enjoying his second season with the South-East Melbourne Phoenix. The 22-year-old will be a key cog in whichever team is able to garner his signature.
Dom Kelman-Poto: Where will DKP sign? In recent weeks there has been talk about both the Tuatara and Bulls being in the mix for Kelman-Poto’s signature, and while you should never discount a return to the Shark Tank where DKP has been a favourite, the whispers are growing louder that the power forward could be eyeing international 3x3 in a similar big-money move that we saw Tai Wynyard make earlier this year.
Aussies/Kiwis: A number of Australians currently playing in the ANBL are being linked with a move to the Sal’s NBL in 2024. We expect to hear a bit more shortly, but some of the names being mentioned are Dan Grida, Akoldah Gak, Sam Froling, Lat Mayen and Ben Ayre, while on the Kiwi front those on the radar of teams include Dontae Russo-Nance, Tai Webster, Corey Webster, Sam Mennenga, Reuben Te Rangi, Jack Andrew and Izayah Le’afa.