Ariel Hukporti will be back in NBL24, but the jury is still out on how the 21-year-old recovers

1 May
By Dan Woods for

Ariel Hukporti will be back in NBL24, but the jury is still out on how the 21-year-old recovers from his dramatic, season-ending Achilles injury suffered at last season’s NBL Blitz.

A ruptured Achilles tendon – which is what kept the German centre sidelined for all of last season – is a notoriously difficult injury to come back from in any sport, at any level. Let alone when you’re seven feet tall.

The Next Star is primed to play a backup role behind Jo Lual-Acuil Jr at centre to open the upcoming season, and Pete Hooley is worried about the 21-year-old’s ability to have an extended impact on games.

“The biggest knock on Hukporti before he got injured was his motor,” Hooley said on The Marketplace. “How long can he last on the court? Coming back from an Achilles adds to that a little bit.

“It’s not like you have Dave Barlow at the four who could play that five spot, or even a Mason Peatling.

“Kyle Bowen is an undersized five if he has to go there, Luke Travers can’t play the five.

“It would be something you think about.”

With new young contingent of Bowen, Flynn Cameron and Campbell Blogg joining Hukporti as part of United’s mooted backup unit this season, Hooley believes the re-signing of veteran forward Brad Newley could prove to be a masterstroke by United.

Newley, 38, began his NBL career with Townsville in 2004 where he won the competition’s Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and All-Star Game MVP awards before embarking on a globe-trotting career through Europe.

He returned to Australia with the Sydney Kings in 2016 before signing with Melbourne ahead of NBL22.

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“The re-signing of Brad Newley, I don’t think, can be understated,” Hooley said.

“Throw him anywhere in the depth chart because I think that’s how they’re going to use him when they do.

“You’ve just got that veteran head in the locker room, especially for that bench unit in practice every day is going to be invaluable for them.”

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