A potential breakout performance from New Zealand's Mantas Rubstavicius has led the way for the Next Stars.

4 Dec
By Dan Woods for

New Zealand’s Mantas Rubstavicius is beginning to find his feet in the NBL following a list of niggling injury issues that have plagued his campaign so far.

Rubstavicius made his return to the court in the Breakers’ win against Adelaide, and although he was quiet in the victory, he established a platform from which he could build in his side’s next up clash with South East Melbourne.

The Lithuanian brought a spark off the bench against a desperate Phoenix, and added 11 points on 4-6 shooting in the defeat – including a run where he scored seven consecutive New Zealand points late in the third quarter.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">New Zealand&#39;s lefty Lithuanian Mantas Rubstavicius is starting to heat up ?<br><br>Catch the action live on ESPN via Kayo | Sky Sports in NZ ? <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="">December 2, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Perth’s Alexandre Sarr continues to be trusted with big minutes in John Rillie’s shortened rotation for the Wildcats, and scored 15 points on strong shooting splits in the Wildcats’ emotional victory over fierce rivals Sydney.

Sarr also pulled in five boards and ripped two steals in the win – all of which came in just over 16 minutes of action.

Only star teammates Bryce Cotton (41) and Keanu Pinder (18) outscored Sarr for the Wildcats in the win.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Alex Sarr in Perth’s sixth consecutive win last night:<br><br>?? 15 points<br>?? 2 steals<br>?? 75% FG<br>?? 16 minutes played<br><br>The <a href="">@PerthWildcats</a> Next Star continues to shine in NBL24 ?? <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="">December 2, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Melbourne’s Ariel Hukporti impressed for Melbourne against Cairns despite United falling to the Taipans, as he continues to split minutes at the center position with former MVP candidate Jo Lual-Acuil Jr.

Hukporti added 13 points from the bench in what was a high-scoring affair between the two best defences in the competition. He also pulled in six rebounds in 17 minutes of action.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Matthew Dellavedova and Ariel Hukporti combine for their third alley-oop of the game ? <br><br>Watch live and free on ESPN via Kayo Freebies | 10 Peach &amp; 10 Play ? <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="">December 3, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Cairns’ Bobi Klintman also came off the bench in the clash, and scored eight points following his six points in the Taipans’ loss to Brisbane earlier in the round.

The Athletic's Sam Vecenie recently stated Klintman has the ability to take games over and be the best player on the court for stretches, and he once again had a period like that in the second quarter, where he hit a pair of triples.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Two threes in the second quarter for Bobi Klintman ? <br><br>The Taipans are shooting 73% from the field ? <br><br>Watch live and free on ESPN via Kayo Freebies | 10 Peach &amp; 10 Play ? <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="">December 3, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

Alex Toohey continued his run of starts for the Kings despite the return of Jaylin Galloway to the active roster, and while he put in the type of all-action performance that has him shooting up draft boards, he struggled to hit his shots in the defeat.

He connected with 30 per cent of his looks against the Wildcats, but also pulled down five rebounds and added three assists.

Trentyn Flowers was unable to build on the impressive performance he put in against the Phoenix prior to the mid-season break, and played just four minutes against the Breakers in Adelaide’s opening Round 9 game.

He earned more burn against the JackJumpers two days later, and his six points and five rebounds saw him end the game as one of few bright spots from what was a poor performance by the 36ers.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Trentyn Flowers is shooting the ball with supreme efficiency in NBL24: <br><br>→ 56% FG<br>→ 57% 3P<br>→ 67% TS (true shooting*)<br><br>Catch the <a href="">@Adelaide36ers</a> Next Star in action tonight at 5:30pm AEDT, live on ESPN via Kayo ? <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="">November 30, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

AJ Johnson looks set for a slightly increased role under interim head coach Justin Tatum at Illawarra, but the 18-year-old was unable to inspire his team to victory in the Hawks’ one-point loss to Brisbane to close out Round 9.

Johnson played 10 minutes in the defeat, but couldn't connect on any of his five shots or produce the high-flying, athletic highlight plays he’s shown himself to be capable of this season.

He'll continue to improve with consistent minutes.

Rocco Zikarsky continued to be used in short, sharp bursts for Brisbane. He proved to be a difference-maker in the Bullets’ tense rivalry win over Cairns and ended the game with six points and three rebounds in just eight minutes of action.

Then, against Illawarra he played eight minutes to help guide his team to a one-point win to finish the round with a pair of victories.

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