NBL basketball news 2022: Kouat Noi, Sydney Kings, Cairns Taipans, new scene

Sydney signing Kouat Noi lost his love for basketball at the Cairns Taipans, but after losing 12 kilos this off-season he is ready to rediscover his inner fire at the Kings.

Two seasons of substandard results at the Taipans weighed heavily on Noi, sparking him to feel downcast and disinterested.

The Newcastle-raised forward knew he was spiralling to a dark place, so he jumped at the chance to re-energise his promising career with the championship-winning Kings.

“I just had to find that love for basketball again,” Noi told News Corp.

“The last two years with Cairns I couldn’t find that high level of basketball, so this off-season I really reconnected with my career, and it was the best thing for me.

“I didn’t think about walking away from basketball, but we were just losing, and that environment wasn’t healthy for me.

“I needed a new scene and with the Kings winning the championship, I thought the winning environment would help me a lot.”

Noi is also in the best physical shape of his career following a successful off-season stint with USC Rip City in the NBL1 competition.

He starred for Rip City, averaging 26 points and 13 rebounds, to pick up the NBL1 North MVP and lead the team to the Grand Final series before losing to the Gold Coast. His time on the Sunshine Coast was also hugely beneficial for his body.

The extra training and game time allowed Noi to drop a whopping 12 kilos.

“I wanted to make a big emphasis to lose the weight to find my best form again,” he said. “I took it very seriously from the start.

“That’s what I did and now I’m at the Kings and I’m feeling as strong as ever.”

Noi is loving life in Sydney, but he could’ve landed at the Kings last season if coach Chase Buford had his way.

Buford made inquiries about the forward, but no deal eventuated as he was contracted with Cairns.

“Chase has always told me that he has been watching me since my College days at Texas Christian University,” Noi said about Buford, who has long been an admirer of his athleticism and natural hoops gifts.

“When he arrived last season, he would always say hello to me, so I knew there was interest.

“The Kings reached out to me straight away as soon as I became a free agent. They went out of their way to make sure that I was part of their team.

“Now it’s good to be finally coached under Chase.”

It hasn’t taken Noi long to find his feet at the Kings.

He is relishing in a franchise that demands excellence, on-and-off the court.

“It’s great, you have to come in and work hard and that is what I wanted,” he said.

“I wanted that extra push to get the best out of me.

“We’ve got good young and older guys, so we’re talented across the board.

“It’s exciting. I’ve been working really hard, and I can’t wait for the season to start.”

Sydney’s local rivals, Illawarra, are facing a franchise-defining season.

The departure of super coach Brian Goorjian and key players Duop Reath, Antonius Cleveland and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, has forced the Hawks to rebuild.

On the plus side, import guard Justin Robinson looks like a quality signing.

Robinson, who has spent the last three seasons in the NBA with Milwaukee, OKC, Detroit, Sacramento, and Washington, looked impressive at the pre-season Blitz in Darwin.

He regularly stuffed the stat sheet, with double-figure points and multiple assists

Forgot about Nate? Boomers star under radar amid Baynes show

It’s been the Aron Baynes headline show at the Brisbane Bullets in the pre-season, but Bullets guard Nathan Sobey also deserves attention.

That’s the opinion of fellow Bullets guard Jason Cadee, who says Sobey is primed for a bumper season coming back from knee injury.

The bronze medal-winning Boomer displayed glimpses of his best at the pre-season Blitz in Darwin despite being on a minutes restriction.

Sobey’s standout performance came in a one-point win over Cairns when he had 10 points and five rebounds in 10 minutes on the floor.

It was an impressive effort given he hadn’t played since February when a knee injury prematurely ended his season.

Sobey is now fully fit, and Cadee is expecting big things from his skipper in the 2022/2023 season.

Watch every game of the 2022/23 NBL Season on ESPN on Kayo Sports. Season starts this Saturday October 1. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >

“Sobes is kind of the forgotten person at the moment,” Cadee said.

“That always happens when someone has been out for a period of time, but I always feel confident playing alongside Sobes because he does the little things well.

“He is back to full strength, and he has ticked off every box in the lead up to that.

“Having a healthy Nathan Sobey will only enhance our chances this season.”

BRIMMING WITH CONFIDENCE

Cadee has been at the Bullets since 2018, but he has never felt this confident heading into a season.

He says the additions of key signings Aron Baynes and Tyler Johnson, who both have extensive NBA experience, has particularly fuelled his belief.

“This year is definitely different,” he said.

“I’m not going to get too far ahead of myself and I’m pretty realistic with it, because I’ve been around long enough to know how these things go.

“You need a lot of luck and things to go your way, but early days it definitely seem like a group that has different levels and gears that we can get to that I haven’t seen from the group for a period of time.

“You can’t help but be excited about that, but also know that there is a lot of work to be done to get to the highest gear level.”

BANGERS AND SPLASH

Baynes will be at the centre of Brisbane’s success this season.

The 2014 NBA champion and Boomers veteran has already given the Bullets a more intimidating edge, according to Cadee.

“Signing Baynes for me wasn’t about him killing it and averaging 30 points and 20 rebounds,” he said.

“It was more his presence and what his presence will do and how others will feel it.

“It’s something the Bullets haven’t had – someone who can really impose and add to our group.

“The refs, our opposition, the NBL – all have to look at Brisbane differently now that we’ve got an Aron Baynes there.

“Aron is so excited to be back on a basketball court and around basketball again.

“He can even talk too much sometimes, which I don’t see as a bad thing because it shows how much he cares and how well he wants to do.”

Originally published as NBL23: Eyes on the prize on the eve of the new season