How to break into the NBL from college

Nathan Sobey, Matt Hodgson and Chris Patton

Michael Oakes

Michael Oakes is an Australian athlete manager who has extensive knowledge in a wide variety of global sports, including basketball.

As an officially accredited FIBA player agent, he is providing his knowledge and expertise for Australians as to what to expect as a professional basketball player.

Website: mummu athlete management


How to break into the NBL from college

Although the Australian National Basketball League competition has experienced its share of ups and downs, the competition as a whole remains strong. With so many players now using the US college pathway to propel their careers, places on an NBL roster are increasingly hard to come by.

In 2014 there were just 3 players who finished their college playing career who managed to play their way onto NBL rosters, although one of them began as a development player. So far in 2015, a further 3 players have secured NBL contracts, with a chance of one of two more to also come.

Importantly, once a player has finished school, nobody should expect to stroll into being offered an NBL contract – its a tough competition with limited spots available!

Nathan Sobey, Matt Hodgson and Chris Patton

Nathan Sobey, Matt Hodgson and Chris Patton

However, if you have the talent and capability and are keen on playing in Australia’s premier competition, there are some tips for any prospect to consider:

  • Most Australian college players already know NBL coaching personnel, so make sure you touch base with them and let them know your keen on returning home post college. Make sure you have done this by the end of your junior season.
  • If you are returning home from college during your summer break, most NBL teams would be happy to have you attend training with them so make sure you get in touch to arrange it.
  • At the conclusion of your college career, return to Australia as soon as possible and consider playing in a winter competition like the SEABL or a state league. Occasionally teams in these competitions will pay you while you gain a chance to stay fit and keep in touch with NBL coaching personnel within the Australian system.
  • When you are permanently back in Australia, get in touch with NBL teams to workout with them. Either make the call personally or ask your agent to do so on your behalf.
  • NBL teams offer the chance to be a Development Player (DP). These opportunities are few and far between but are a great chance to get in the door.
  • As a DP in the NBL, you complete all the same requirements as a fully contracted player; train, attend functions, represent the club and you even suit up for home games. If you show enough promise, you will even get a chance to see on court action during the season. DP’s can even be taken on 7 road trips per season – you get paid for these as well.
  • Life as a DP can be hard; some teams pay, some teams don’t. You may have to get a part-time job to assist with living. However if you put in the hard work and succeed, you will have a great chance of gaining that full contract the following season.

Despite your best efforts, a returning player from college may still not receive one of the few roster spots that NBL teams have available for rookies. You may get the option to be a Development Player and do not be turned off by this. There have been countless great NBL players who have begun as DP’s and gained contracts in their second season. In fact this coming season, Nathan Sobey, Matt Hodgson and Chris Patton all graduated to full contracts for the 2015/16 season.

Next: How to make it in Europe from college

Previous: Finished school? Your professional playing options


Michael Oakes’ views are those of his own as a player agent of mummu athlete management.

He will be providing further insights into professional basketball pathways for The Pick and Roll in future.

Mummu Athlete Management

Damian Arsenis

Written by

A patriotic and passionate follower of all things #AussieHoops. With a Master of Marketing, I am a Life Member of the Warrandyte Basketball Association, Level 2 qualified coach and referee, podcaster, and proud father of three girls.

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