Strong side could cement win for Tuatara

The Canterbury Rams celebrate winning the 2023 National Basketball League title. Photo: supplied
The Canterbury Rams celebrate winning the 2023 National Basketball League title. Photo: supplied
The National Basketball League gets under way on Wednesday night with the defending champions Canterbury Rams hosting the Nelson Giants. Sports writer Adrian Seconi takes a glance at the sides.


2023: Champions

Key players: Former NBA guard MJ Walker shapes as a major scoring threat, while rising Australian star Lachlan Olbrich is a relentless rebounder.

The oil: The Rams have retained a good core of the team which won the title last season and shape as strong contenders again. Forward Max Darling came into his own at the pointy end and he will be even better following a season with the Breakers.

Prediction: Tipped out in the playoffs.


2023: Runner up

Key players: Corey Webster will strengthen the back court and veteran forward Rob Loe is the best player in the league.

The oil: Webster and Loe will be joined by Reuben Te Rangi and Tom Vodanovich in a fab four to be feared. The Tuatara set the benchmark last season but Webster scored 25 points from the bench for the Rams to sink their hopes.

He has switched sides this season.

Prediction: Champions.


2023: Beaten in the semifinals

Key players: Former Otago Nuggets centre Sam Timmins will team up with Dom Kelman-Poto.

The oil: American point guard Josh Scott is tasked with unleashing the attack and the Bulls have added Ethan Rusbatch and Jordan Hunt, who have transferred from the Hawks.

Prediction: Early playoffs exit.


2023: Beaten in the playoffs

Key players: Perth Wildcats forward Hyrum Harris and Australian guard Ben Ayre should help the Saints get back on championship pace.

The oil: Tom Vodanovich’s departure to the Tuatara is a big loss but former coach Zico Coronel is back at the helm and the return of Tall Blacks Izayah Le’afa and Tohi Smith-Milner should lift expectations in the capital again.

Prediction: Semifinalists.


2023: Beaten in the playoffs

Key players: Veteran forward Jordan Ngatai will team up with American Josh Roberts in the paint.

The oil: Been a tough off season. The Hawks’ playing stocks have been raided. There has been been some rumoured bust-ups and they have been slow to sign players. They are very much in a rebuilding phase.

Prediction: Lower reaches of the competition standings.


2023: Seventh

Key players: Illawarra Hawks forward Sam Froling and Adelaide 36ers guard Mitch McCarron will help lift the Airs.

The oil: Mounted a late run last season but missed the playoffs. Froling was dominant in the Australian NBL and McCarron will help the Airs play an up-tempo game.

Prediction: Semifinals.


2023: Eighth

Key players: American LaGerald Vick arrives with a big reputation as a sharp shooter.

The oil: Battled injuries last season and were inconsistent. Leaned heavily on Jeremy Kendle who has not returned. Vick will have to pick up that load.

Prediction: Very lower reaches.


2023: Ninth

Key players: Breakers forward Dan Fotu has joined the Giants and Alex McNaught is key to unleashing the offence.

The oil: Outside of Fotu the recruitment news has been rather quiet. They will lean on veterans Sam Dempster and Tom Ingham to pull the campaign together.

Prediction: Third drawer down.


2023: Last

Key players: Mustapha Heron shone last year and has returned for another stint with the Jets. Troy Baxter Jun can hoop as well.

The oil: The Jets’ prospects will hinge on the fortune of import trio Heron, Baxter Jun and Jasper Rentoy. Depth has been the issue for the Palmerston North based-team in the past and shapes as an issue again.

Prediction: Wooden spoon battlers.


The Tauranga-based expansion team is new to the league this season.

Key players: Jayden Bezzant and Kruz Perrott-Hunt will play a big role in the offence.

The oil: American forward Phillip Carr will have to stitch together a young and mostly inexperienced crew.

Prediction: Going to be tough going.

 - A full preview of the Otago Nuggets season will run on Saturday.