Young Bloods

The pipeline has never been wider.

In 2015, Australia sends more kids to college than ever before. Like all young ballers, our countrymen in the NCAA harbour NBA dreams, but the reality is that just 60 draft spots exist each season and few college graduates catch on as free agents. Most of our rising talent seeks work outside The Association.

Over the years, many have chosen the prospect of bigger dollars and a higher profile in Europe. But in recent times, more of our top players are coming home and with the NBL outlook the most optimistic it’s been in a decade, it’s hopefully a pattern rather than an aberration.

This year’s crop of NCAA grads turned NBL rookies is a promising sign. The quality of this group - good players in good programs - is exactly what the league needs to maintain a high and compelling standard of play.

As future Boomers complete their schooling, the NBL will ideally offer a viable and attractive option for them to continue their careers. The pipe that’s now wider than ever at the bottom should be getting wider at the top, too.


Hugh Greenwood (Perth Wildcats)

Greenwood joins Perth after a stellar 4 year career at New Mexico. His rise to prominence began in his junior year, where he started alongside Cameron Bairstow as the Lobos won the MWC Conference Championship, secured an NCAA Tournament spot and rose as high as 17 in the AP Top 25.  As a senior in 2014-15, with Bairstow plying his trade as a Chicago Bull, Greenwood assumed more of a leadership role and was the Lobos’ co-MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.

He projects as an NBL combo guard and will share backcourt minutes with All-NBL’ers Jermaine Beal and Damian Martin. His reputation as a smart and tenacious defender should help him slot perfectly into the Wildcats’ machine.

Offensively, he combines intelligent off-the-ball movement with excellent shot mechanics. He shot .341 on 3’s last season, leading the team in makes and attempts, and it’s easy to imagine him feasting on the open looks he’ll enjoy in Perth.


Jeromie Hill (Sydney Kings)

Hill’s impressive college resume includes 4 straight years of double-figure scoring, as he stepped right into a featured role on one of the better UTSA teams in school history. The 2010-11 squad was just the fifth to play in the NCAA Tournament, with Hill as it’s leading rebounder and third leading scorer. He managed to meet the high standards he set for himself each year thereon, posting 16 and 8 last year as a senior.

Standing 203cm (6’8″) and weighing a solid 113kg (250lbs), Hill compliments his big frame with good hands and a nice shooting touch. The Kings ranked last as a team in rebounds per game last season (and second-last in rebounding percentage) per RealGM and will benefit from Hill’s duality as a perimeter player who can get on the glass.

Given the toughness of NBL basketball, size and strength are almost mandatory. Often, college graduates are physically under developed for the Aussie game, but Hill looks like an instant contributor.


Nick Kay (Townsville Crocodiles)

Kay is another with stand-out NCAA numbers, coming off a senior year in which he put up 20 and 8 on an efficient 53% from the field. A graduate of noted Australian basketball hotbed Metro State, Kay was a Division 2 All-American and multiple All-Conference Team member. The 2013 Roadrunners were runners-up in the Division 2 NCAA Tournament with Kay as a starter and key contributor.

He brings a versatile offensive game to Townsville, having thrived in college as both a traditional back to the basket big and a stretch 4. Kay took far fewer threes as a senior than he did as junior, preferring to focus on scoring around the hoop.

While he posted a career high in points per game, at 203cm (6’8″), Kay will probably have to resurrect his outside shot to score effectively in the NBL. As his highlights attest, he has an ability to rip through and finish with authority, too - always easier to achieve with the threat of consistent perimeter shooting.


Majok Majok (Melbourne United)

Technically, Majok is not a rookie in the professional game, having completed a season in Slovenia last year. Again, it’s an endorsement for the NBL that he’s chosen to return rather than pursue another contract in Europe.

Majok caused a stir by bringing African basketball royalty with him to his United unveiling, an illustration of what the game means to the ex-pat Sudanese community in Melbourne.

Prior to turning pro, Majok was a double-double threat at Ball State, a Division I school in the college basketball mecca of Indiana. He averaged 10 and 9 his senior year, scoring at a 55% clip from the field. He sports a muscular frame and plays with power to match the aesthetic, dunking everything he has the chance to. Lucas Walker has departed for Adelaide and Majok profiles well to make up for some of his lost athleticism and hustle.


Matt Hodgson (Adelaide 36ers)

Hodgson also qualifies for the ‘technical’ label, as he is not entirely a rookie straight of college, either. As a development player with Melbourne United last year, Hodgson spent most of last season recovering from knee surgery that repaired damaged meniscus and shaved off some cartilage.

The 36ers have given Hodgson a full contract and 2015-16 will be the first season he sees NBL minutes, so in effect, it will be his real rookie year.

A graduate of “Little Australia,” St. Mary’s California, Hodgson is a throwback big man who plays almost exclusively on the interior. At 211cm (6’9″), Hodgson plays taller with an impressive wingspan and a willingness to bang bodies around the hoop.

The best appraisal (and endorsement) of his game and NBL prospects comes from former coach Chris Anstey.

“Hodgy has a pro skill set greater than what was required in college,” Anstey told Downtown.

“He has great length, is an elite rim protector, can play back to the basket and facing it. If Hodgy gets his knee right he will be the best value player in the NBL.

“I had planned on him being a big part of Melbourne for many years.”


Mitch McCarron (Unsigned)

On NBA draft day, McCarron hoped to be among a group including Scottie Pippen, Walt Frazier and Willis Reed to be taken out of Division II. He certainly put himself in prime position, having won Division II Player of the Year for his senior season at Metro State. Alas, his name was not called, and he quickly became one of Australia’s most sought after young free agents.

As you can see, McCarron is a heck of an athlete and when coupled with his fearless style, he’s a Play of the Week waiting to happen. He’s far from just a dunker, though, having scored 20 a game while shooting 42% on threes and 49% overall in 2014-15. His skill at scoring over, under and around bigger defenders, from all angles, makes him an extremely tough cover.

If and when he’s signed, McCarron will be further evidence that the next generation is alive and well. No longer do we just have to read about – we can see it in our own backyard.

Article written by

Melbourne born and raised. My hobbies over the years have included dunk contests on the 8 foot rim in Paul Vido's backyard, skipping uni to play pickup from dawn til dusk and a short-lived career as a point guard with a broken jumpshot. More recently, Paul and I ran a moderately successful operation over at The Baseline Leaner which covered the NBA and NBL. You can now find us in The Locker Room @ Downtown - continuing our mission to provide the world with unique basketball content and generally behaving strangely. Follow me on Twitter @32MJ32

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