Ariel Hukporti has headed back to Germany, but the popular Next Star reflected on his journey with Melbourne United.

17 Apr
Dan Woods for

ariel Hukporti is the first Next Star to complete a three-season tenure in the NBL, and after a season in which he came oh so close to the ultimate glory with Melbourne United, the German center has reflected on his NBL journey ahead of the upcoming NBA Draft.

Hukporti is continuing his preparation for the draft by playing for German side Regen Ludwigsburg, where he registered seven points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in his recent Basketball Bundesliga debut.

He has also already played once for his new side in the Basketball Champions League.

The 22-year-old says spending so much time away from home has helped him develop as a person, as well as a player.

I’d played in Germany my whole life, then I went to Lithuania for a bit, then to the States for a bit, and then from the States to Australia. It’s been a journey,” Hukporti told MU Media. “My career has been a rollercoaster, up and down, but I feel like coming to Australia was a big step for me as a 19-year-old coming across the borders and trying something new.

“The NBL has a great program with the Next Stars, so I was just trying to try that out and it’s been great so far. I feel like my first year I had to grow up a bit more, because I used to always travel between Lithuania, the States and Germany ... it was a quick eight-hour flight, (but) this time is wasn’t possible. 

“I was nine, eight months by myself and at first it was quite challenging, but when I look at the end of the journey I’m quite glad I was by myself, you know about yourself a bit more, and you see corners you never thought you had.

“My first year was a great experience, but the second year I was injured – but that was actually a great experience as well because it taught me more patience.

“Then my third year was just a great year. We couldn’t really finish it, but it was a great journey and a great season.”

While United’s roster has changed dramatically since Hukporti’s first season with the club – only Chris Goulding, Shea Ili, Brad Newley and Zac Triplett were present for all three years he played in the NBL – one constant has been the presence of head coach Dean Vickerman.

Hukporti says Vickerman’s mentality has permeated throughout the club during his time there.

“I feel like the mentality of the club is always fighting to win, especially with Deano,” he said.

“His mentality is pretty great and he puts it on his players as well, making sure they have the same mindset coming in it’s all about the team and not about yourself, winning, how it is to win and how it feels to win, and what mentality you have to have to win.”

While Hukporti’s journey with Melbourne United looks more than likely to have come to an end for now, he hasn’t ruled out the potential for a future return with the club.

“Those three years, it’s more like a community, it’s great,” he said. “I definitely want to come back one day, but now I have to take it step by step, I can’t look to the future too much.”

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