HAMISH GEALE THE ADVOCATE Tasmania is “ready” to have its own team in the NBL, says Basketball Australia chairman Ned Coten.
The state has been absent from the national stage since the Hobart Tassie Devils exited the NBL in 1996, but growing participation statewide and the creation of the Southern Huskies have built momentum for a return.
Visiting Elphin Sports Centre’s Launceston Classic at the weekend before watching the Huskies go down in a thriller at the Silverdome, Coten said Tasmania was presenting a strong case for admission.
“I know that the NBL has been looking very closely at Tasmania because of the number of players that have come from Tasmania,” Coten said.
“The sport’s booming here and I think Tasmania’s absolutely ready for an NBL team and I know there’s a lot of interest from the NBL in doing that.
Forming late last year, the Huskies were knocked back in their bid for an NBL licence but remain determined to join the competition despite signing a five-year agreement with the NZNBL.
Coten fell short of marking the Huskies as Tasmania’s best shot at a licence, but said the Anthony Stewart-coached side was paving the way.
“I think [the Huskies are] helping because it’s helping the organisation understand what’s required to compete at a new level,” he said.
“I know that there are different opinions about it, but my own view is that any time you can have an environment where teams from our region are competing against each other at this level it develops the sport.
“I think that they’re going well, they’ve shown that they can really compete, the competition’s really good, there’s a lot of Australian players playing in the NZNBL and from what I’ve seen so far they’re doing a great job.”
Coten was not willing to speculate on when Tasmanians could expect to see a team in the NBL, but said the team would have a strong brand.
“I think what it will look like is a team that the whole state can get behind,” he said.
“I can see a team that’s got real state pride behind it and can compete really well.
“I don’t think the NBL would bring a team in from Tasmania unless it was capable of performing at the highest level, and there’s no question in my mind the players and the infrastructure are here to do that.”