Tasmania still firmly on the NBL’s radar
TASMANIA could have a team in the NBL as soon as late next year with league owner Larry Kestelman confirming he is keeping a close eye on the sport in the state.
The NBL will expand to nine teams for the 2019-20 season with South East Melbourne Phoenix entering the competition and Kestelman, who is also executive chairman, is eager to hand out a 10th licence as soon as possible.
Speaking on SEN's Whateley program on Wednesday, Kestelman said "it is part of our DNA to spread the game to all the Australian people" - and Tasmania firmly has a case to be included.
"Tasmania, I do think there is a case, I think it is a matter of everything coming together. I think those sort of markets definitely need their biggest business involvement, which is government," he said.
"I think Tasmania, purely standalone, might be a little bit challenging but I think a combination of real NBL support, local business support, fans and government, I think it is worth seriously considering it.
"I know they love their basketball down there. We have spoken to them. It is definitely in the mix but I think we need to have a conversation with the government about it.
"There is an opportunity, but we need to go through a proper process. This is not a question of do we think or might it work, we will be doing all the work thoroughly to make sure it is a success if it goes in and it has the right backing.
"We don't have a timeline. In a perfect world I would like to see the 10th team come in not next season but the season after."
Kestelman's comments come as the Southern Huskies prepare to create history by joining the New Zealand NBL - becoming the first Australian team to play in an NZ-based professional competition.
The Huskies, who begin their Kiwi adventure with a three-game road trip starting on April 18, will split their nine home matches between the Derwent Entertainment Centre and Launceston's Silverdome.
The Huskies will also have a presence in the new NBL1 league as Hobart, filling the void left by the Hobart Chargers.
Huskies co-owner Justin Hickey said the club's long-term vision remains the Australian NBL, with their presence in New Zealand a stepping stone to the goal.
"We feel we have a really sound business structure and we can prove that this year in the New Zealand NBL.
"There is no shadow of a doubt that Tasmania can stand alone [in the Australian league], but we are focused on the NBL1 and NZ NBL this year."
Minister for Sport and Recreation Jacquie Petrusma said the State Government would welcome discussions with Kestelman about a pathway towards the NBL.
"It's great to see Tasmanian basketball receiving recognition nationally, and our door is always open to talk about the future of the sport," she said.