While Alex Toohey was initially viewed as a two-year prospect, he's looming as a genuine Draft bolter.

26 Oct
By Dan Woods for

When Alex Toohey signed with the Sydney Kings as part of the Next Stars program, the general consensus was he would likely be a two-year draft prospect. But those goalposts are starting to move following a highly productive first month of the NBL season.

Upon Toohey’s reveal as a King, Sydney CEO Chris Pongrass labelled the Centre of Excellence graduate as a potential lottery prospect, and while that may have raised the eyebrows of many but the most clued in of draft experts, Toohey’s performances for a high-flying Kings side have seen him surge up draft boards and earn the status of a genuine bolter.

The rangy forward has flown under the radar for the Kings this season, but has absolutely thrived in his starting role in the absence of star import DJ Hogg. Across his six games so far, he’s averaged over 11 points and five rebounds a game and has gone on some incredible individual scoring runs. Along the way he produced one of the highlights of the early season, with a remarkable spin move and dunk on Brisbane’s Chris Smith.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">ALEX TOOHEY!<br><br>Spins and dunks! ?<br><br>? Watch <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBL24</a> LIVE on ESPN! <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; ESPN Australia &amp; NZ (@ESPNAusNZ) <a href="">October 13, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

As a member of the Kings, Toohey has the greatest draft success story in Australian basketball history in his corner in the form of former NBA champion, NBL MVP and current Sydney minority owner Andrew Bogut, who was selected with the first overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.

Bogut played two years of college ball at Utah and was named the Naismith College Player of the Year in his sophomore – and final – season with the program.

He says Toohey will have an important decision to make as to whether he wants to throw his name into the NBA Draft at the end of the current NBL season.

“The draft is so hard, especially with a guy like Toohey, to know where he’s going to go,” Bogut told NBL Media.

“He’s playing very well in the NBL at the moment, but he could go either way. Sometimes you want to strike while the iron is hot and make sure you get on a draft board – there’s an old adage that the longer you stay in college or a different league it gives scouts another year to be somewhat nitpicky and find flaws that maybe aren’t really there, so there’s that risk.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">The <a href="">@JackJumpers</a> may be leading, but Alex Toohey is lighting up MyState Bank Arena ?<br><br>The Next Star is up to 14 points at the half ?<br><br>Catch the second half live on ESPN via Kayo ? <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="">October 6, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

“It’s that balance with what Alex feels comfortable with. I think a second year wouldn’t be the worst thing, but at the same time if he’s projected to go top 15, top 20, you don’t pass that up. It’s a very important strategy Alex is going to have to have with his family, himself, his agent and even with us a little bit.

“We’re not a club that is going to try and make sure he comes back for a second year at all costs. If he’s ready to go, we understand the way the game works.”

Toohey’s status as a genuine high-level draft prospect is picking up some serious speed amongst NBA Draft circles.

Draft expert Richard Stayman expressed his belief that “Alex Toohey has a chance to be the best player right away” out of the current crop of Next Stars, and said “he’s somebody I feel like is really going to rise up the draft rankings this year because of the NBL program a lot of people haven’t yet caught up on,” on the Locked on NBA Big Board podcast.

NBA Draft analysts Tyler Metcalf and Tyler Rucker are also riding the Toohey train. 

“I’m very, very high on him and he’s very close to my first round,” Metcalf stated on a recent episode of the No Ceilings NBA Draft Podcast. “I've currently got him) in the mid-thirties.”

Rucker was quick to support his co-host's point-of-view.

“I love him,” Rucker stated. “I was thinking of going to a therapist and saying ‘I love Alex Toohey and can’t understand why anyone doesn’t’. That dude can play basketball and I need everyone to stop thinking he’s a next year guy.”

Part of Toohey’s appeal to the wider pool of draft experts comes from both his intangibles – like his length and size – and his ability to thrive in situations head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah is putting him in.

“Moud is really big on moving the ball quickly,” Bogut continued. “He’s putting Alex in a lot of positions he probably hasn’t been in defensively.

“We switch one through four generally most games, so you saw Alex having to guard Jordon Crawford last game in isolation.

“That’s not his strength at the moment, but in the long run it’s going to be beneficial, because he’ll learn how to use his length better against smaller, quicker guys.

“It’s just a matter of getting games under his belt. Already this season he’s had great games, he’s had games that weren’t as good, and that’s all part of his journey and his ability to bounce back. I think if he continues to keep his numbers up, he’s a genuine chance to be drafted at the end of this season.

“If he’s had a subpar game – he hasn’t had a horrible game this season – but against Adelaide he had five points and two rebounds and then bounced back against Brisbane and that’s a prime example that he can bounce back.

“He’ll continue to get better, his three ball is starting to get better – we pegged him as a streaky shooter and it’s a matter of being consistent for him. His size and length, you can’t teach. He’s a big three/four, he plays four for us but he’s probably going to be a three at the end of the day, but he’s very aggressive to the rim and does a lot of good things.”

NBL fans could be set to be afforded a glimpse into Toohey’s likely future as an NBL small forward in upcoming games, with the impending return of DJ Hogg and the injury to Jaylin Galloway set to potentially tweak his role within the Kings’ starting unit.

Toohey has been starting at the power forward position in place of the injured Hogg, who has been sidelined for the entire NBL24 season so far with a shoulder injury, but the former All-NBL Second Team nominee is set to return to action this weekend.

That return looks set to coincide with the removal of fellow emerging local Jaylin Galloway from Sydney’s rotation, who himself picked up a severe looking shoulder injury in Sunday’s Round 4 loss to Tasmania.

But through injury comes opportunity, and Bogut says Toohey’s rapid development has been, in part, because he’s been exposed to more high-level game situations than he might have, been had Hogg been fit in Round 1.

“Galloway had earned his spot and Hogg is one of the best imports in the league and that’s part of the position Toohey has been playing,” Bogut said.

“You never want to have a positive out of an injury, but if there’s one blessing in disguise out of the Hogg injury and now the Galloway injury, it’s Toohey has been able to be blooded quicker than we thought.

“We had him as probably coming off the bench for one of those guys and the minutes would depend on how he played, but he’s had opportunity now to be able to play through games he hasn’t played as well, and it’s meant he’s been able to play through any mistakes.

“I think it’s been a blessing in disguise for Toohey and now it looks like Galloway is going to be out for a while now and we get Hogg back in a limited capacity this week, so Toohey’s probably going to continue to stay on a steady diet of his current minutes for the foreseeable future.”

Sydney and Toohey next face Cairns on Saturday, October 28 in its only game for Round 5.

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