In this week's Fast Five we're taking a look at the top five players to surprise us so far during the Sal's NBL Showdown. In no particular order here's our five. Do you agree? Who's on your list?
Ashton McQueen (Property Brokers, See Me Manawatu Jets) 7.4ppg and 2.7rpg
The 8th pick by Manawatu Jets in the Sal’s NBL Draft Ashton McQueen has been a standout performer in NBL ‘20.
The 1.93m forward had played just one full season in the NBL and that was five years ago when he suited up for the Mountainairs.
To many observers the former Tauranga Boys High player was an unknown quantity and a surprise choice by the Jets but he has repaid coach Tim McTamney’s faith in spades.
It’s not McQueen’s numbers that catch the eye - 7.4 points and 2.7 rebounds are not startling - but it’s his relentless effort on defence and understanding of his role in the team that is impressive.
McTamney often gives the 24-year old the defensive assignment of marking the premier guard on the opposition, a responsibility McQueen thrives on. The Jets have an abundance of hefty scorers so McQueen just waits for his moments knowing he is not high on the opponents scouting report. He’s capable of knocking down his outside shot at a handy clip currently shooting the three ball at a more than useful 38%.
Expect McQueen and McTamney to stick with what’s working in the upcoming play-offs.
Matt Bardsley (Fluid Recruitment Otago Nuggets) 4.1ppg and 2.3rpg
Otago Nuggets guard Matt Bardsley was the 84th and final pick in the Sal’s NBL Draft. Despite helping Otago University complete the 2019 Tertiary Tournaments double winning both the 3x3 and 5x5 National titles, little was expected of the 24-year old.
Those thoughts appeared to be those of Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere when Bardsley was a mere bench warmer in Otago’s opening game against his hometown team Manawatu.
The Palmerston North Boys High old boy played five minutes in Otago’s next outing then 10 minutes in game three.
In game four Bardsley announced himself to the NBL wider audience with 18 points (9/12FG) and 8 rebounds against the Airs.
Whilst he hasn’t been able to replicate those numbers in subsequent games his high octane approach at both ends of the floor, has earned him respectable minutes as he has become an important cog in Matehaere’s rotations.
Bardsley says “I try to go out and be as annoying as hell on defence.”
There is a bit more to his game than that.
Nate Wilson (Auckland Huskies) 7.4ppg and 3.9rpg
Nate Wilson was the Auckland Huskies 12th pick in the NBL draft, something of a hunch considering the 19-year old has only been playing basketball for four-years.
The former Mt Albert Grammar centre has raw talent and abundant enthusiasm which combined with some serious hops has seen him appear on a number of video highlight reels in the past four weeks.
He is amongst the NBL’s leading shot blockers swatting away 1.2 shots per game whilst also averaging 7.4 points and 3.9 rebounds per outing.
The wiry two-metre forward has hops, potential and the ability to please. It’s just the beginning for Nate Wilson.
Ben Carlile-Smith (Wheeler Motor Company Canterbury Rams) 6.3ppg and 4.5rpg
Like Nate Wilson, Ben Carlile-Smith is in his first year out of high school and turning a few heads.
The 19-year old swingman has been a consistent performer in the Rams team playing 21 minutes per game. His perimeter shot is a work in progress but he is one of the best free-throw shooters in the Rams line-up making 80% from the charity stripe.
He is a tireless worker on defense claiming 4.5 rebounds per game – 11 boards against the Nuggets testimony to his work on the glass.
There is plenty of upside to the Cantabrians game and with a four-year scholarship at Colorado Christian University beckoning you would expect the former Middleton Grange player have a successful collegiate career.
Kenneth Tuffin (Steelformers Taranaki Mountainairs) 10.4ppg and 5.7rpg (pictured)
Kenneth Tuffin is not a name many New Zealand basketball followers would have been familiar with a month ago.
However back in the Philippines, where Tuffin has been on a basketball scholarship for the last four years, he is an emerging star.
The 23-year old plays and studies at Far Eastern University, a regular top-four finisher in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP).
His performances for the Tamaraws have earned the former St Pat’s Siverstream player selection in the Philippines national team wider training squad.
Whilst the Airs duo of Marcel Jones and Derone Raukawa have been stealing most of the headlines Tuffin has been posting some impressive numbers of his own. He averages 10.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game with his free-throw shooting (94%) and 3-point shooting (44%) at an elite level.
His performances may also have caught the eye of a Tall Blacks selector or two.
Photo Credit: PhotosportNZ