The Southland Sharks has added a junior Tall Black to its 2017 roster with coach Judd Flavell predicting the new recruit could be a future star.
Junior Tall Black Josh Aitcheson has linked with the Sharks where he sat on the bench for the first time in the loss to the Wellington Saints but did not take to the court.
The 18-year-old Otago University student replaces Olly Smith who has opted to withdraw from the remainder of the NBL season with Smith returning to Dunedin.
Aitcheson has his sights set on a spot in the Junior Tall Blacks squad which will travel to the World Cup Cairo in Egypt in July.
He is living and studying in Dunedin and approached the Sharks about the prospects of commuting to link with the Southland team in the New Zealand National Basketball League.
"I'm just trying to get better. Hopefully, the chance to train alongside the talent on the Sharks roster will help me make the Junior Tall Blacks team for Worlds," Aitcheson said.
He was a member of the national junior side that recorded a rare victory over Australia to win the FIBA Oceania Championships in Fiji last year to earn a World Cup spot and he is relishing the opportunity to train and play at an NBL level.
"Being there for Saints game (two weeks ago) was awesome. I loved being there with the lads. They are a great group of guys and are really experienced so I'm just trying to take it all in," he said.
Coach Flavell is aware of Aitcheson's talent given he coached him in the national junior side in 2015.
"He approached me, wanting to get experience leading into the World Champs. I was all for it. I know he's a very good up-and- coming talent and a great kid."
"He's made the commitment to drive down to the games and a couple of practices a week and he's also studying law at University as well, so he's juggling the two. I think that says something about the guy and about how committed he is," Flavell said.
And the coach won't be shy about giving Aitcheson court-time, should the opportunity arise.
"He can play. He's certainly not somebody who is not just there to be a training body. He's there to push his way through and I'm sure we are going to see him on the court at some stage this year because he's exciting and he works hard, so he fits in with all the values we have in this club," Flavell said.
"He is a name that people may not know right now, but in years to come they will certainly know who Josh is and I'm really looking forward to working with him."
The SIT Zero Fees-sponsored Sharks return home with a two win and two loss record after a tough away trip last week where they beat Nelson in overtime before losing to Taranaki.
They will take on the Supercity Rangers in Invercargill on Saturday night.
The match tips off at 7pm.