"We want to be a pathway for Australians, New Zealanders, Europeans, Americans. Really everyone from around the globe."

27 Jun
By Dan Woods for

The signing of Alex Toohey to the Sydney Kings represents something of a coup for the Next Stars program, according to General Manager of Next Stars Recruitment Liam Santamaria.

The NBL is consistently searching for the world’s top emerging talent, with a number of stars of the future opting to ply their trade in Australia.

Toohey is the first Australian player to have signed onto the program since Makur Maker in NBL22 and Josh Giddey in NBL21. After putting together a Rookie of the Year campaign in his sole season in the competition, he was selected with the sixth overall pick at the 2021 NBA Draft.

Since then, Giddey has gone onto become one of the most exciting talents in world basketball.

RELATED: Get to Know the NBL24 Next Stars 

Toohey has joined Bobi Klintman (Sweden), Mantas Rubstavicius (Lithuania), AJ Johnson (America), Alexandre Sarr (France) and Ariel Hukporti (Germany) as a Next Star for NBL24, and Santamaria says having such a wide array of talent speaks volumes of the program itself.

“The fact Josh sort of waves the flag for Australians in the NBA and particularly the Next Stars program is huge for our league,” he said.

“Moving forward, you think about the Next Stars program and its growth – we want to be a pathway for Australians, New Zealanders, Europeans, Americans. Really everyone from around the globe.

“Having one of the brightest young talents in Australia choose this pathway and put his faith in the Sydney Kings and their support structures for his development, I think, is huge for the program.”

Toohey is the first Australian to join the Next Stars program since NBA star and key Boomer Josh Giddey.

The signing of Toohey to the Kings, much like the signing of the 19-year-old’s Next Star associates to various teams around the league, didn’t happen overnight.

While the pieces may have moved quickly to see Toohey in a Kings uniform seemingly appeared out of nowhere, his decision to head to Sydney was underpinned by months of work and scouting from the league.

With four Next Star spots still available for next season, Santamaria says there is still plenty of water to go under the bridge ahead of NBL24.

“We first started engaging with Alex and his family about the potential to come to the Next Stars program and start his pro journey last year,” he said.

“He had conversations at that point – and experiences – with a number of teams. The Kings and others around the league.

“After he made his decision to commit to Gonzaga in November last year we stayed in communication … really just as a support system to offer our best wishes and to let them know the Next Stars program is here if Alex’s circumstances change.

“It’s been pretty lengthy in those other instances as well with our Next Stars group. It’s exciting when it happens. You feel great in those situations for the program, I feel great in those situations for the player – because I often think we’ve found them a great situation for them to launch their career.

“There are some teams around the NBL who don’t have a Next Star locked in for the upcoming season. As long as that’s the case and they’re coach or GM, ownership group, are keen to explore that potential, Jeremy [Loeliger] and I are going to work hard to find them a good match.”

Toohey will now be hoping to follow a strong list of former Kings to utilise the back-to-back reigning champions as a platform to the NBA.

While Sydney is yet to see a Next Star of theirs drafted straight from the club into the world's biggest league, Santamaria believes the club’s connections and ability to develop players to the NBA standard is a calling card they can proudly hang their hat on.

“They’ve built a program here that has become a leader in the area of player development,” he said.

“They’ve sent players from the NBA from the purple and gold in the last few years. Jae’Sean Tate, Didi Louzada, of course Xavier Cooks is the most recent example of that.

“They’ve done a great job here in Sydney of positioning themselves as a club that can get that done.

“They can help improve your game, and they can give you NBA opportunities.”

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