27 Jul

Melbourne United has signed 19-year-old German NBA prospect Ariel Hukporti for the 2021-22 Hungry Jack’s NBL Season via the League’s Next Star program.

The highly touted seven-footer will use his time in the NBL to prepare for the 2022 NBA Draft.

Hukporti won the MVP award at the NBA’s 2020 Basketball Without Borders Camp at NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago, ahead of a star-studded field including Josh Giddey, Kai Sotto and Tamuri Wigness. He also took out MVP honours in the Nachwuchs Basketball Bundesliga, Germany’s top U19 league, for the 2019/20 season.

Hukporti last played for Nev?žis K?dainiai in the Lithuanian Basketball League, where he averaged 10.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last season. Prior to that, Hukporti played for German side Riesen Ludwigsburg from 2018-2020.

The 19-year-old has represented Germany at numerous international tournaments including the 2019 FIBA U18 European Championships and at the 2018 and 2017 FIBA U16 European Championships.

Hungry Jack’s NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said: “We are thrilled to welcome Ariel Hukporti to the NBL as he continues his journey to the NBA.

“Ariel is one of the most imposing talents we have seen come through the Next Stars program. His list of career achievements at just 19 years of age is incredible and we have no doubt he will be put in the best position to succeed at Melbourne United.

“The Next Stars program is constantly evolving as we offer players across the world an alternative pathway to the NBA. We have seen enormous global interest in Next Stars and the NBL recently, which is evident by Ariel’s signing, France’s Ousmane Dieng joining the New Zealand Breakers and Brazil’s Didi Louzada debuting with the New Orleans Pelicans after his stint with the Sydney Kings.

“It is a historic week for the program as former Adelaide 36ers Next Star Josh Giddey is set to be a first round draft pick in Friday’s NBA Draft. Josh’s stocks continue to rise after his breakout NBL season and now, on the back of the news of Ariel’s commitment, I think it’s safe to say that the Next Stars program is as strong as it has ever been.

“We can’t wait to watch Ariel continue grow both as an athlete and as a person during his time in the NBL and become one of the most touted prospects in international basketball.”

Melbourne United Head Coach Dean Vickerman also spoke of his excitement to welcome Ariel to the league and to the club.

“We’re very happy to have Ariel joining us for NBL22. The Next Stars program is all about helping young players develop as they progress to the NBA draft whilst also finding the right player who will fit with our existing squad and contribute to the club’s success.”

“After speaking with Ariel, his coaches, and a number of scouts we have no doubt that Ariel is all about winning and is going to have a huge impact in this upcoming season.

“What really stood out about Ariel is his mobility, power and athleticism. We believe he will play a significant role in our attempt to go back-to-back.”

Hukporti said: “I considered many options when deciding on the next step in my career. The Next Stars program and Melbourne United really impressed me with their plan to combine championship level team performance with a personalised player development plan for me. 

“I am very excited about playing for Coach Vickerman and working with his entire staff. I am ready for the challenge.”

Melbourne United have also signed 18-year old David Okwera for the next two seasons, starting as a Development Player in NBL22, before being promoted to a roster spot in NBL23.

The 210cm forward is known for his length and athleticism, can protect the rim and defend at a highly competitive level. The big-man can also get it done on the offensive end of the floor, with his strengths residing in the paint and around the rim.

Originally from Western Australian, Okwera moved to Melbourne a few years ago, where he played in the NBL1 at Kilsyth before he was selected for the NBA Global Academy.

After receiving close to 20 NCAA D1 offers, Okwera made the decision to forgo the collegiate path and turn professional. Okwera has also represented Australia on multiple occasions, most recently for the national Under 19 side at the U19 FIBA World Cup.

Witness Hukporti and Okwera take to the court at John Cain Arena in NBL22, become a Melbourne United Member today!


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