Kenny Smith will actively recruit, develop and mentor new Next Stars players

4 Apr

The Hungry Jack's National Basketball League (NBL) has announced the appointment of NBA legend and TNT Sports broadcast commentator, Kenny Smith, as Head of Next Stars’ Player Initiatives - North America for its highly regarded Next Stars program.

The appointment of Smith solidifies the initiative as a premier pathway to the NBA for young players from around the world.

Smith will actively recruit, develop and mentor new Next Stars players and will become a part owner of an NBL expansion team, set to be announced in the near future.

"With my passion for growing the game of basketball globally, I'm incredibly excited to be an ambassador of the NBL’s Next Stars program and to be fully invested in the growth of the NBL as a future owner of a new expansion team,” said Smith.

"Legitimate pathways to the NBA are evolving, and the NBL has a proven track record of getting players drafted. The NBL identified a key role for me to mentor and support young talent and equip them with the tools to compete at a professional level with a view to making the leap into the NBA.”

Since 2018, the NBL Next Stars program has played a pivotal role in the professional development of NBA draft-eligible talent. The program’s alumni include first round draft picks LaMelo Ball, Josh Giddey, RJ Hampton, and Ousmane Dieng.

The current group of Next Stars features potential first round picks including Alexandre Sarr, who has been ranked No.1 overall in several prominent mock drafts.

“The growing recognition of talent development in the NBL has proven the League and its Next Stars program is poised for even greater success,” added Smith.

Participants in the Next Stars program face top-tier competition and receive exposure to world-class scouts. The NBL is widely regarded as the world’s second-best professional League outside of the NBA.

In the NBL, players receive a salary, draft bonuses, accommodation, one-on-one coaching and more.

Additionally, the League is committed to providing player development on and off the court with players in the program to receive leadership training, financial planning advice, media training and personal branding expertise. All will be made available to the players while also providing an invaluable platform to showcase their talent directly to NBA scouts.

"We are extremely proud of our Next Stars program and what it has achieved but this is just the beginning,” said Larry Kestelman, Owner of the NBL.

“The addition of ambassadors and future team owners of Kenny Smith’s calibre and reputation is truly exciting and shows how far we have come, but also indicates to the basketball world where we are headed.

“There are currently 11 former NBL players in the NBA and we want to see that number increase significantly and we believe Kenny will help us expand the Next Stars program dramatically to achieve this. We are quickly becoming the most legitimate, and best pathway to the NBA.”

NBL Director Nikola Milivojevic said: “I am excited to see the program continue to flourish, and with Kenny Smith’s support, knowledge and expertise and long-standing relationship and reputation, we are not only confident it will continue to help us grow and cultivate the best basketball talent from around the world, but also show how committed we are to developing the next wave of NBA stars.”

About Next Stars
The Next Stars is a unique and innovative program run by the NBL, providing a springboard for NBA draft-eligible talent from across the globe to fast-track their professional development. Since its inception in the 2018-19 season, it has seen eight players drafted to the NBA, with three of those being lottery picks. An additional six players have signed with NBA teams. For more on the Next Stars visit - or check them out on Instagram @nblnextstars.

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