With the Sal’s NBL set to tip off tonight, there are a surprising number of Tall Blacks – and national team athletes at age group level – on the opening night rosters.
Of the 40 Tall Blacks who saw action across the FIBA World Cup qualifiers and/or the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup in 2022/23, this Sal’s NBL season will see 25 of those players suiting up across nine of the ten NBL teams. In addition ten athletes who represented New Zealand last year at age group level will also compete in the NBL; a trio from the U15 national boy’s team that won silver at the FIBA Oceania Champs, six players from the 2022 Junior Tall Blacks squad and a single athlete from the U17 team that competed at the U17 Basketball World Cup in Spain. Five members of the busy 3×3 Tall Blacks squad will also see action this season.
Here’s a team-by-team breakdown which national team players will appear in this season’s Sal’s NBL.
Franklin Bulls (6)
Jayden Bezzant / Isaac Davidson / Dan Fotu / Tyrell Harrison / Dom Kelman-Poto / Brody Perry (U17)
The Bulls are fortunate to have a quartet of Tall Blacks in their squad this year. Jayden Bezzant made his national team debut in March last year, while also travelling to the FIBA 3×3 World Cup and Commonwealth Games with the 3×3 Tall Blacks. Isaac Davidson made 7 appearances with the Tall Blacks at the 2022 Asia Cup – helping the team earn bronze – with both Dan Fotu and Tyrell Davidson racking up a pair of appearances each in qualifier play. New signing Dom Kelman-Poto joins the team after playing a key role in the 3×3 Tall Blacks bronze finish at the 3×3 Asia Cup earlier this month, while also joining Bezzant at the 3×3 World Cup and Commonwealth Games. Joining them is 18-year-old Brody Perry, who represented NZ at the U17 Basketball World Cup in Spain last year.
Canterbury Rams (6)
Taylor Britt / Walter Brown / Max Darling / Louie Gordon (U17) / Tai Wynyard / Tautoko Wynyard
The Rams will field a trio of Tall Blacks this season, led by guard Taylor Britt and his 15 appearances in 2022/23 across both the qualifiers (eight games) and Asia Cup (seven games). Joining him is Walter Brown – who made a pair of qualifier appearances – and Max Darling, who suited up for two Asia Cup games before suffering an injury. Another Tall Black on the squad is Tai Wynyard, who played in two games for the 5 on 5 squad and was also a key member of the 3×3 tall Blacks – most recently earning a place on the FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup Tournament team. Tai’s younger brother Tautoko joins the Rams this season after being named to the U18 Junior Tall Blacks for the Asia Champs in Iran. And Louie Gordon has also been named to the squad, with the 18-year-old a member of the U17 3×3 national team that travelled to the U17 3×3 Asia Cup in Malaysia last year.
Auckland Tuatara (6)
Thomas Beattie (U18) / Charlie Dalton (U18) / Rob Loe / Chris McIntosh / Kruz Perrott-Hunt / Reuben Te Rangi
A trio of Tall Blacks join the Tuatara for the upcoming Sal’s NBL season. Rob Loe appeared in four qualifier games last year – averaging 14.3pts and 9reb – while Reuben Te Rangi averaged 14.8pts over four qualifier games in 2022/23. Joining Rob and Reuben is Kruz Perrott-Hunt, who made seven appearances for the Tall Blacks in last year’s Asia Cup in Jakarta, while a pair of U18 Men’s National Team selections (2022) in Thomas Beattie and Charlie Dalton are also included. And Chris McIntosh returns to the team after making his 3×3 Tall Blacks debut at the 3×3 Asia Cup earlier this month.
Taranaki Airs (5)
Oscar Goodman (U15) / Cameron Quinnell (U18) / Anzac Rissetto / Richie Rodger / Riley Tuuta (U18)
The Airs will feature a Tall Blacks duo of Richie Rodger and Anzac Rissetto, who both made their debuts in 2022; Rodger appearing in four games and Rissetto present in two qualifiers last November. Rodger also appeared in the 3×3 Tall Blacks squad that claimed bronze at the FIBA 3×3 Asia Cup earlier this month. The squad also features two players named to the Junior Tall Blacks last year in Riley Tuuta and Cameron Quinnell, with that squad unable to travel to Iran for the U18 Asian Champs due to safety concerns. And 15-year-old Oscar Goodman, who was named to the Tournament team at the U15 Oceania Champs last November, also joins the Airs as a development player.
Hawke’s Bay Hawks (4)
Hyrum Harris / Jordan Hunt / Jordan Ngatai / Ethan Rusbatch
Four veteran Tall Blacks will suit up for the Hawks this season. Leading the charge is Ethan Rusbatch who appeared in 10 Tall Blacks qualifiers in 2022/23, with Hyrum Harris earning eight and Jordan Ngatai seven caps over this same period – this trio playing a key role in the Tall Blacks earning a berth in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Joining them is Jordan Hunt, who tallied 10 caps of his own across both the qualifiers (three) and 2022 FIBA Asia Cup (seven). It’s also worth noting this Hawks squad includes two past Tall Blacks in Jarrod Kenny (70 appearances from 2009-2020) and Derone Raukawa (21 caps from 2016-2018).
Wellington Saints (4)
Tyrael-Cage Heke (U18) / Taane Samuel / Tohi Smith-Milner / Tom Vodanovich
Three players on this season’s Saints roster have seen action for the Tall Blacks since last year, led by Tohi Smith-Milner who earned 14 total caps across both the qualifiers (seven games) and Asia Cup (seven games) as a key member of both squads. Joining Tohi is Tom Vodanovich, who averaged 17.3pts and 8.3reb over four Tall Black qualifier appearances last year, and Taane Samuel who debuted in the Manila qualifiers last March. Another name on this squad is 19-year-old Tyrael-Cage Heke, who was included in the U18 Junior Tall Blacks for last year’s Asia Champs.
Nelson Giants (3)
Sam Dempster / Hayden Jones (U15) / Alex McNaught
The Giants boast a pair of Tall Blacks debutants in Alex McNaught and Sam Dempster, with the former playing in two games last November and Dempster appearing in a friendly game against Japan in August. Joining the squad as a development player this season is 15-year-old Hayden Jones – son of legendary Tall Blacks sharpshooter Phill – who earned silver at the U15 Oceania Champs last November and was named to the Tournament team for his efforts.
Otago Nuggets (1)
With Nikau McCullough joining the NBL1 this year, the Nuggets will have Sam Timmins as their solitary Tall Black when they look to defend their NBL title this season. Timmins was a key player on the Tall Blacks team that won bronze at the FIBA Asia Cup last July, making seven appearances and leading the team in both total rebounds and blocks.
Southland Sharks (1)
Forward Brayden Inger is the sole Tall Black to appear on the Sharks roster this season; the 24-year-old appearing in one game for New Zealand during the qualifiers in Manila last March.
Lachlan Crate (U15)
Although the Jets are the sole NBL team without a current Tall Black on their roster, they have added 15-year-old Lachlan Crate as a development player; Crate was part of the NZ U15 team last year that won silver at the U15 Oceania Champs in Guam, where he led the tournament in blocks.
The Sal’s NBL season tips off from 6 April 2023. Watch all games live on Sky Sport, and keep up to date with all the latest League news at nznbl.basketball.