After a season on the sidelines, Ariel Hukporti is primed to return to the court for NBL24

2 Jun
By Dan Woods for

After a season on the sidelines, Ariel Hukporti is primed to return to the court for NBL24, and he credits the community feel of Melbourne United for helping him come back “better than ever”.

The German Next Star impressed in his maiden season in the competition back in NBL22. After 30 games in the NBL as a 19-year-old, it was the general consensus that another strong season with Melbourne would catapult him into the draft calculations of most NBA clubs.

Then disaster struck.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBL23</a> injury update ?<a href="">@MelbUnited</a> Next Star Ariel Hukporti left tonight&#39;s game in the 3rd quarter with a lower leg injury.<br><br>More info will be provided as it comes to hand. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="">September 21, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

A ruptured achilles tendon ruled him out for the entirety of Melbourne’s NBL23 campaign. He was sorely missed, as United missed the Finals. 

“I feel better than before and better than ever,” Hukporti told NBL Media at the league’s recent partnership announcement with Mitsubishi.

“I still have to work on some little things, but I feel good.

“I’ve always got the club around me. It’s basically family – I’m always going upstairs to check on everyone and talk about things that aren’t just basketball or what they’re doing behind the desk and all of that.

“This is a community that really cares about their players.

“When I ruptured my achilles, there was nothing like ‘hey, we don’t want you anymore’ like some clubs can do in Europe.

“They stayed with me, they stuck with me, and they believed in me to keep going and live the dream.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Ariel Hukporti is back ?<a href="">@MelbUnited</a> has announced the return of Ariel Hukporti, the 7-foot German center, to the NBL Next Stars program for the upcoming 2023/24 season ??<br><br>Read more here: <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="">March 30, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Hukporti was joined by six other Next Stars in his first season in the NBL – a group that was headlined by New Zealand’s Ousmane Dieng – and, at the time of writing, there are two others – Illawarra’s AJ Johnson and Perth’s Alexandre Sarr – committed to the program for the upcoming campaign.

The trio headlines what has been an influx of high-school and collegiate talent bringing their skills to the NBL. High-profile former college stars like Josh Bannan, Taran Armstrong and Flynn Cameron are locked in for NBL24, as are high-school phenoms Klairus Amir and Dontae Russo-Nance.

Hukporti, Jason Cadee and Brad Newley at the launch of the NBL's new partnership with Mitsubishi.

Hukporti believes the platform the NBL can provide for young players is unmatched around the world.

“I think the Next Stars program is great, because not a lot of young people get that chance, worldwide, to play pro,” he said.

“It’s given us the possibility and opportunity to play professionally from a young age.

“I always tell people the NBL is like the EuroLeague, just with less money – but what they can do with the money is unbelievable.

“I think in a couple of years the NBL could even surpass the EuroLeague money-wise.

“In America when you talk about the EuroLeague they don’t really know about it, but when you talk about the NBL they all know what’s going on.”

Hukporti’s first opportunity to take to the NBL floor once again will come in the opening game of the season against local rivals South East Melbourne on Thursday, September 28.

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