The Southland Sharks have scored a major coup just over a week out from the start of the New Zealand National Basketball League, signing one of Australasia’s brightest prospects, Mojave King for the 2022 season.
The 19-year-old 1.95-metre shooting guard is currently in the final week of the regular season for the Adelaide 36ers in the Australian NBL as part of the league’s Next Stars programme, designed to develop NBA Draft prospects
King is champing at the bit to bring his talents to the New Zealand league and the Sharks with the chance to play under Sharks’ Head Coach Rob Beveridge being a key influence in his decision.
“The biggest thing for me is developing and getting better and I’m still young and have got a lot to learn and soak it all in. I was looking at where I wanted to be in this Australian NBL offseason and my Dad (NBL legend and Basketball New Zealand high Performance Director Leonard King) was big on making sure I was under a great coach and learning from him and developing every day,” King said.
Dunedin-born King moved to Australia at a young age and impressed through the Queensland junior ranks, earning a spot in the NBA Global Academy, in the process putting his name on the radar of NBA scouts. After taking a number of college visits, he elected to take the less-travelled path and play professionally in the NBL, rather than through the American collegiate system.
“It was a tough decision and took a long time but after talking with Dad and an agent it was the best decision for me to get the experience I needed. College is great but the only way to get pro experience is to actually play professionally. All it really takes is exposure and performing when you get given that opportunity and then anything can happen from there,” King said.
Sharks Head coach Rob Beveridge believes King’s decision to choose Southland as the next chapter in his path to the NBA draft is a major endorsement in the Sharks programme and reputation internationally.
“He’s been identified as a future NBA player and he has to learn to become a pro. For his agent to reach out and ask us to take him and teach him is fantastic for our club. He’s going to be in an environment where he will have great peer group pressure to get better with the support network we provide and I’m going to ride him every day to push him to fulfil his potential,” Beveridge said.
“He has elite athleticism, a high skill level and very good basketball IQ so he ticks all the boxes. Our job is to put him in an environment to excel,” he said.
King is scheduled to arrive in Invercargill next week and will be on a crash-course ahead of the season-opener next Friday. Beveridge has had to contend with a stop-start pre-season due to player unavailability with the Sharks set to take on the Otago Nuggets in two pre-season games in Dunedin this weekend.
“It’s been a little slower than I would have liked with seven guys out with COVID over the last couple of weeks so I’ve had to be very conscious of what we are doing at training but over the last week we’ve started to look like a team. Knowing that next week we still have to bring in Mojave, Brayden (Inger) and a second import so I love the pieces we have and the team chemistry that I can see building quickly,” Beveridge said.
The Sharks open the Sal’s NBL season with a clash against traditional rival the Wellington Saints next Friday (29 April) at 7:30pm at ILT Stadium Southland.