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Jets, Airs Lead Free Agency Opening Week

With a little over 11 weeks until the 2023 Sal’s NBL season tips off the race to sign players has started.

As the 42-year-old competition continues to reach new highs in viewership and attendances, the competitive balance amongst teams since bringing a salary system into play a few years ago has increased the off-court battle to recruit players.

Free agency opened last week, and it was the Property Brokers Manawatu Jets and Taranaki Steelformers Airs sharing all eight player announcements.

Eight teams are yet to announce a player signing, though that is likely to change this week with a number of teams hinting player signings are on the way.

Under the rules of the competition each of the 10 teams must sign a minimum of 12 players, with the upper limit set at 18 players per team.

The teams can recruit a maximum of three restricted players each (imports), while young stars are often given their first taste of the big league via an amateur contract.

The Jets were the big winners of the opening free agency week with coach Natu Taufale revealing his three imports, led by exciting Kansas Jayhawks wing LaGerald Vick.

At 26 years of age, Vick has carved out a strong career in South America since graduating from the Jayhawks. His collegiate career saw him play 117 games with a season high 14.1 points per game in his senior year, which included a three-point shooting clip of over 45 per cent.

Vick also won a gold medal with the Team USA at the 2015 World University Games.

Excitingly, the Airs announced the return of the league’s 2022 leading scorer Anthony Hilliard, who returned 26.3 points and 4.2 made triples per game in his first season with the team.

The Airs also announced Kiwi point guard Richie Rodger is returning for a second season, and they snared the signature of big man Anzac Rissetto who leaves a sizeable vacancy at the Franklin Bulls.

Rissetto enjoyed a breakout season in 2022 with averages of 10.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the Bulls, including three double-doubles. His arrival at the Airs likely means Tai Wynyard is on the move with rumours swirling that New Zealand’s 3X3 star is headed to the South Island, while the Bulls will be on the lookout for a big man to hold down the centre position under new coach Daniel Sokolovsky.

In other news, the Taylor Hawke’s Bay Hawks completed the coaching line-up for season 2023 with long-time NBL player and former Tall Black Everard Bartlett taking the role.

Check out our 2023 free agency tracker: https://men.nznbl.basketball/2023-free-agency-tracker/

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MANAWATU JETS
Coach: Natu Taufale
LaGerald Vick – new (restricted)
Danny Pippen – new (restricted)
Javion Blake – new (restricted)
Tama Faamausili – returning
Liam Judd – new (Franklin Bulls)

 

TARANAKI AIRS
Coach: Trent Adam
Anthony Hilliard – returning (restricted)
Richie Rodger – returning
Anzac Rissetto – new (Franklin Bulls)

 

SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Coach: Guy Molloy

 

HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS
Coach: Everard Bartlett

 

FRANKLIN BULLS
Coach: Daniel Sokolovsky

 

AUCKLAND TUATARA
Coach: Aaron Young

 

CANTERBURY RAMS
Coach: Judd Flavell

 

OTAGO NUGGETS
Coach: Brent Matehaere

 

WELLINGTON SAINTS
Coach: Troy McLean

 

NELSON GIANTS
Coach: Mike Fitchett

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