The Southern Huskies have taken the next step in their bid for an NBL licence, today announcing that they will compete in the New Zealand National Basketball league for the 2019 season.
Southern Huskies Managing Director, Justin Hickey, told The Pick and Roll that entry into the NZ NBL, also known as the Sal's NBL, is an exciting step forward for his budding franchise.
“The New Zealand NBL is a super strong competition and we are excited to be there,” Hickey said.
The budding franchise has already got a head start on building their roster, agreeing to terms with an inaugural head coach and first high-profile recruit. Former NBL player Anthony Stewart will lead the Huskies from the sidelines, while Harry Froling has signed to the club’s playing roster for their 2019 campaign.
Credit: Southern Huskies
The NZ NBL, which consists of eight existing franchises, has previously been a stepping-stone for NBA athletes Steve Adams, Torrey Craig and Kirk Penny as they chased higher accolades.
Hickey hopes the league can do the same for his franchise, and he is confident the Huskies can generate immediate success on the back of a talented inaugural roster.
“We have assembled the best side to hit Tasmania since the last year of the Hobart Devils in 1997,” Hickey said.
Froling, who is currently playing for the Adelaide 36ers in the Australian NBL, will headline the Huskies roster when they make their competitive debut in April 2019.
The 211-centremetre Froling harbours NBA ambitions and returned to Australian shores this year, after a two year NCAA career with South Methodist University and Marquette University.
The Huskies have also signed former Perth Wildcat Mason Bragg to their playing roster.
Credit: Southern Huskies
While the NZ NBL fixture won’t be released until later this month, The Pick and Roll has learnt the Huskies will play an 18-game home and away season consisting of:
Nine home games in Tasmania and nine away games in New Zealand.
The Huskies’ nine home games will be split between multiple locations in the north and south of the island.
The Huskies will play in a special ANZAC Day game, deliberately scheduled to foster a Trans-Tasman rivalry.
The Huskies will play their first NZ NBL game on the week starting 11 April 2019.
The Huskies' away games will take place in Auckland, Christchurch, Invercargill, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Wellington.
Off the court, the Huskies will work to provide a game night experience that surpasses anything in Australian basketball. The budding franchise has been in consultation with multiple NBA franchises, as it seeks to be at the cutting edge.
The club hopes to have packed arenas at every home games and are buoyed by the over 6,000 foundations members who have already signed up.
For those not in attendance, every Huskies game will be streamed live on social media platforms. This is part of the Huskies plan to become a brand that is accessible to all Tasmanians.
“This is a super exciting pathway for Tasmanian Basketball talent,” Hickey said. “We are excited to be working with Tasmanian Basketball and the Hobart Chargers to provide basketball pathways.”
Hickey has also expressed his commitment to growing the sport in Tasmania, and to providing a pathway into the sport for young players throughout Australia.
“We’ve assembled a super exciting and extremely competitive team and we see it as the first step in the road back to the Australian NBL. We’re committed to assisting in growing the talent pool in Tasmania and providing an aspirational team for all Tasmanian basketball prospects to aim for.”
The Huskies bid for an Australian NBL licence was delayed in October, when Hickey’s bid to acquire the Derwent Entertainment Centre was rejected. The club had planned to renovate the DEC and use it as their home ground and training base.
With no ready-made facility in existence, plans have commenced to build a bespoke facility that will house all Southern Huskies home games.
“Aside from the level of quality basketball we are excited to be playing, the opportunities to showcase both Tasmania and New Zealand from a tourism perspective are tremendous," Hickey says. "We have committed to live stream every game to both New Zealand and Australian audiences, and we are working hard to produce a game night like nothing seen in Tasmania before. We want to attract both the basketball and non-basketball audience to what we want to be 'the best show in town’ each and every week.”
Today’s announcement secures the Huskies a place in the NZ NBL for, at minimum, the next five seasons.