Rayan Rupert will likely become the 13th player to be drafted straight from the NBL to the NBA. Get to know the 12 names who have gone before him.

23 Jun
By Dan Woods for

As far as genuine international pathways to the NBA go, the NBL has always been in the conversation. However, it’s been through the recent introduction of the Next Stars program and the booming talent levels of the competition that has seen the legitimacy of the NBL as a player on the world stage of basketball rise.

As the years have progressed there have been plenty of links between the legaues, whether it's been established talents like Josh Childress or Stephen Jackson coming over after strong NBA careers, Australians like Andrew Bogut or David Andersen returning home after years abroad, or young talents like Doug Overton or Jock Landale trying to push themselves into the league, plenty of NBA talent has, at some stage, called Australia home.

Although dozens of players to have turned out in both the NBL and NBA, comparatively few players have run that path through the NBA Draft.

From Chris Anstey to Hugo Besson, the NBL has had 12 players drafted directly from the NBL to the NBA, and with NBL23 Next Star Rayan Rupert looming as the 13th name on that list, NBL Media has run through every NBL player to hear his name called on draft day.

RELATED: Get to Know the NBL24 Next Stars


Chris Anstey – Pick 18 of the 1997 NBA Draft to the Portland Trail Blazers
The first Australian to be drafted into the NBA out of the NBL, Chris Anstey had already established himself as a force in the paint prior to being selected by the Portland Trail Blazers.

He was named the NBL's Most Improved Player and a champion with the South East Melbourne Magic in 1996, and played 155 games (23 starts) in three seasons in the NBA.

He returned to the NBL in 2000 with the Victoria Titans before spending three years in Europe.

One final stint in the NBL with the Melbourne Tigers saw him add two more titles, two league MVPs, a Defensive Player of the Year and four of his five All-NBL First Team nominations.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">On This Day in 1997, four Australian players from the NBL were selected in the NBA Draft for the first and only time headlined by <a href="">@ChrisAnstey13</a> to the <a href="">@dallasmavs</a> ?<br><br>18th pick - Chris Anstey<br>52nd pick - CJ Bruton<br>53rd pick - Paul Rogers<br>55th pick - Ben Pepper <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="">June 24, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Ben Pepper – Pick 55 of the 1997 NBA Draft to the Boston Celtics
Three seven-foot Australian centres were selected in the 1997 NBA Draft. Chris Anstey, Gonzaga and former Adelaide big Paul Rogers, and lastly, Ben Pepper.

Pepper earned both Most Improved and Sixth Man of the Year nominations in the 1997 NBL season with the Newcastle Falcons in a thoroughly impressive campaign that saw the Boston Celtics use their final selection on him.

The NBL journeyman never signed an NBA contract though, and finished his playing career having represented six NBL teams over 12 seasons.

He ended his career in 2008 with averages of 11.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.

Ben Pepper's 1996 headshot.

Brad Newley – Pick 54 of the 2007 NBA Draft to the Houston Rockets
The evergreen Brad Newley is preparing to suit up for his 21st season in professional basketball in NBL24, and has put together a career that has taken him all over the world.

The Melbourne United forward was named Sixth Man of the Year, Rookie of the Year and All Star Game MVP in his first professional season – played with the Townsville Crocodiles – in 2005, and was selected by the Houston Rockets two years later.

He made multiple Summer League appearances over the course of his career but never made an NBA roster. In 2017 his draft rights were traded to the LA Lakers and in 2022 they were traded to the New York Knicks.

He left the NBL for an incredibly successful career in Europe before returning to our shores in 2016 with the Kings.

Gettyimages 82479851 (1)
Brad Newley defending Kobe Bryant at the 2008 Olympics.

Nathan Jawai – Pick 41 of the 2008 NBA Draft to the Indiana Pacers
NBL Rookie of the Year, All Star Game MVP and an All-NBL Second Team selection was all that was needed to convince the Indiana Pacers to select Nathan Jawai in 2008.

Jawai would never play for the club that drafted him, however, as his rights were almost immediately traded to Toronto in a monster six player trade.

The Boomer would play 45 games (two starts) for the Raptors and Timberwolves before embarking on a career in Europe that saw him win four titles in six countries.

He returned to the NBL in 2015 and won a title with Perth before returning to the Cairns Taipans in 2016.

He was the first Indigenous Australian to be drafted into the NBA.

Gettyimages 78453554
Nathan Jawai before the 2007 NBL All-Star Game.

Ater Majok – Pick 58 of the 2011 NBA Draft to the Los Angeles Lakers

The draft story of Ater Majok – the South Sudanese born, Australian raised, Lebanese international basketballer is utterly unique.

Majok left NCAA side UConn in 2010 to begin his career with Turkish side FMV Isikspor Istanbul on a two-month contract before returning to the NBL – where he played for both Perth and Gold Coast in the same season prior to getting drafted.

Following 14 appearances in the 2010-11 season Majok departed Australia in the hopes of boosting his draft stock, and was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers.

While spending time with both the Lakers’ Summer League team and G-League affiliate during his career, Majok has never played in the NBA and has since embarked on a globtrotting journey that included a short stint with the New Zealand Breakers in NBL20.

Overall, the now 35-year-old has represented a staggering 23 teams since hearing his name called out on draft night in 2011.

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font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:550; line-height:18px;">View this post on Instagram</div></div><div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"><div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"></div></div><div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style=" background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"></div> <div style=" width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; 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overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;"><a href=";utm_campaign=loading" style=" color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none;" target="_blank">A post shared by Ater &#34;AJ&#34; James Majok (@iamatermajok)</a></p></div></blockquote> <script async src="//"></script>

Terrance Ferguson – Pick 21 of the 2017 NBA Draft to the Oklahoma City Thunder
Terrance Ferguson is often hailed as the player that informally started the NBL Next Stars program, such was his level of success both during and after his sole season in Adelaide.

Ferguson had initially committed to play collegiately for Alabama while he was still in high school, before decommitting from the Crimson Tide to play for Arizona.

He would, however, elect to pursue a professional career with the Adelaide 36ers prior to the NBA Draft and decommit from Arizona. He played 30 games in the NBL before being picked by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

He went on to play over 200 NBA games in four seasons and was named a G-League champion in 2022. He most recently played for Polish side GTC Gliwice.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">With 21st pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select Terrance Ferguson from Dallas Texas &amp; the Adelaide 36ers in Australia <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; The Pick and Roll ??? (@PickandRollAU) <a href="">June 23, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

LaMelo Ball – Pick 3 of the 2020 NBA Draft to the Charlotte Hornets
The basketball world stood still when LaMelo Ball announced his intent to come to Australia, and although injury restricted the guard to just 12 appearances for the Illawarra Hawks, he helped put the Next Stars program on radars around the world.

He recorded a triple-double in each of his final two games played for the Hawks, and the first of those saw him become the youngest ever NBL player to record a triple-double, aged 18 years and three months.

After being named NBL Rookie of the Year, Ball went on the be named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in his first season with the Hornets, and he was named an NBA All-Star in 2022.

RJ Hampton – Pick 24 of the 2020 NBA Draft to the Milwaukee Bucks

When RJ Hampton and LaMelo Ball locked horns on the NBL floor in 2020, eyes around the globe were firmly fixed on the competition.

Hampton played 15 games for the Breakers before being drafted by the Bucks, however his rights were immediately traded to the Denver Nuggets.

The now 22-year-old spent one season with Denver before heading to Orlando, and he now plays for the Detroit Pistons.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The New Orleans Pelicans select RJ Hampton with the NUMBER 24 PICK in the 2020 NBA Draft!<br><br>The Pelicans are trading RJ to the Denver Nuggets for a future pick. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Basketball Forever (@bballforever_) <a href="">November 19, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Josh Giddey – Pick 6 of the 2021 NBA Draft to the Oklahoma City Thunder

Josh Giddey, along with LaMelo Ball, is often held up as the greatest example of success to come out of the Next Stars program.

The Australian guard led the league in assists in his sole NBL season – at 7.6 per game – and recorded three triple-doubles. He was also named Rookie of the Year.

He’s gone from strength to strength in his first two seasons in the NBA despite injury restricting him to just 54 games (all starts) in his rookie season.

Giddey is now seen as a cornerstone player for a youthful and exciting OKC side.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Josh Giddey (<a href="">@joshgiddey</a>) is firming as a Top-10 pick in tomorrow’s NBA Draft.<br><br>We caught up with Australia&#39;s rising star to reflect on his journey and look ahead to what&#39;s to come.<br><br>FEATURE ?: <a href=""></a><br><br>? Watch the <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBADraft</a> on ESPN from 10:00am AEST Friday. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; ESPN Australia &amp; NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) <a href="">July 29, 2021</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Ousmane Dieng – Pick 11 of the 2022 NBA Draft to the New York Knicks
There’s a European revolution currently taking place in the Next Stars program – and lottery selection Ousmane Dieng led the way thanks to his stint with the New Zealand Breakers.

The raw and rangy 18-year-old was the first European player to commit to become a Next Star, and played 23 games for the Breakers in his sole NBL season to move into lottery contention come NBA Draft night.

While it was New York who initially selected the Frenchman, Oklahoma City rated him highly enough to part with three future first round selections in order to pair him with Josh Giddey.

RELATED: Behind the NBL's French Evolution

He played 39 games in his debut season with the Thunder, and recorded an incredible stat line of 22 points, eight rebounds and nine assists in his only start of the campaign.

Luke Travers – Pick 56 of the 2022 NBA Draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers
NBL fans will be lucky enough to see Luke Travers continue to ply his trade in the NBL next season, as the Cleveland Cavaliers continue to keep a close eye on the development of their exciting Australian prospect.

Once the Cavaliers drafted Travers they immediately stashed him back with the Perth Wildcats, and his appearance at the 2022 NBA Summer League saw him take his game to new heights last season.

The forward is currently in the United States training ahead of the new season, and will once again play in the Summer League for the Cavaliers.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">?? <a href="">@luke_travers</a> made his Vegas Summer League debut and did a bit of everything as the Cavs defeated the Spurs 99-90. ? <a href="">@cavs</a> <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBA</a> <br><br>? 6 PTS | 5 REB | 3 AST | 5 BLK | 2 STL <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) <a href="">July 8, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Hugo Besson – Pick 58 of the 2022 NBA Draft to the Indiana Pacers
While not an official Next Star, Hugo Besson headed to the New Zealand Breakers alongside French compatriate Ousmane Dieng with the hopes of getting drafted to the NBA.

The guard was taken with the final pick in the 2022 NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers, being then traded to the Bucks, and he spent last season playing in his homeland alongside 2023 prospects Victor Wembanyama and Bilal Coulibaly.

As the LNB Pro A season progressed Besson found minutes harder to come by, however he did register double-digit scoring numbers in 13 of his first 15 games last season.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Buck. Yeah.<br><br>Brush up on your French, Milwaukee, Hugo Besson is coming to town ?<a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBLxNBA</a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="">June 27, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Rayan Rupert - Pick 43 of the 2023 NBA Draft to the Portland Trail Blazers
New Zealand’s latest Next Star is the latest NBA draftee to have moved through the NBL.

The long and athletic defender’s draft stock fluctuated int he weeks leading up to the draft, and despite being slated as a first round selection he fell into the middle of the second round.

The rangy defender has been lauded as one of the steals of the draft by NBA analysts, and became the fifth NBL Next Star to be drafted into the NBA in the past four years.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Another Next Star success ?<br><br>Rayan Rupert has been selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 43rd pick in the <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBADraft</a> ?<br><br>Congrats <a href="">@trailblazers</a>, you&#39;ve got a good one ? <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="">June 23, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>


The concept of the 'draft and stash' involves an NBA side drafting a player - usually an internationally-based talent - and stashing them at an international side to either help progress them to an NBA level, or so they can see out their existing contract with their hometown team.

Some of the top players in NBA history have walked the draft and stash pathway - including two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, 10-time All-Star David Robinson, and four-time champion Manu Ginobli.

Didi Louzada – Pick 35 of the 2019 NBA Draft to the Atlanta Hawks
The first South American to sign to the NBL in the Next Stars program, the Atlanta Hawks stashed Didi Louzada at the Sydney Kings in the hopes of getting him NBA ready, both on and off the court.

Part of his mission in the NBL was to not only excel in a high-profile and high-quality professional league, but also learn English given he had lived his entire life in Brazil.

Following two seasons with the Kings, Louzada signed for the New Orleans Pelicans and played 12 NBA games (one start) over two seasons.

He currently plays for Cleveland’s NBA G-League affiliate – the Cleveland Charge.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Obrigados, <a href="">@Didi</a> <br><br>From Summer League to today, Didi Louzada&#39;s journey with the <a href="">@SydneyKings</a> as an NBL Next Star has been incredible to see.<a href="">@PelicansNBA</a>, you&#39;ve got a good one ? <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="">April 19, 2021</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Justinian Jessup  - Pick 51 of the 2020 NBA Draft to the Golden State Warriors
Like Louzada, Justinian Jessup spent two seasons in the NBL with the hopes of getting NBA ready.

The sharpshooting guard progressed to a point where he started all 30 games for a title-contending Hawks side but unfortunately, he left the side for Spain as opposed to the NBA.

After 68 games in the NBL, Jessup currently plays for Zaragoza in Spain’s top division.

*Doug Overton and Jordan McRae played in the NBL immediately after being drafted, however they were signed to NBA clubs as free agents following their stints in the competition - therefore they were not drafted directly from the NBL, nor do they classify as 'draft and stash' talents.

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