“We certainly have agents from a number of big agencies in town now, or planning to come in future, to both check in on their guys in person, and also suss out more about our league and whether it would be the right fit for their guys in future years,” Loeliger told The Age on Friday.
“They don’t give too much away but we certainly have some interest from some very capable young men.
“I would like to think we will have at least three or four again, who are of similar profile and capability.
“I’d like to think there will be more than that but I’m certainly not counting our chickens before they hatch.”
The NBL know the future success of the program will be based on signing players, with the talent and right attitude, who go on to be drafted.
“It’s not too much too soon in terms of our capacity to deal with it [nine players] but certainly now we have raised the level and expectation in terms of the player we want in the Next Stars program,” Loeliger said. “So by definition trying to find nine guys who would be top 10 draft picks would be quite the exercise.
“I don’t think I want the talent spectrum to be too dispirit. We want the guys to be similarly talented and who are similar prospects in terms of the following draft.”
Louzada’s signing was different as the Brazilian star was drafted in the second round of last year’s draft by the New Orleans Pelicans and is learning English and working on his game.
If he stars with the Pelicans in the near future it could open the doors for similar talents to spend a season in Australia but Loeliger won’t extend the program to players who aren’t draft eligible.
“The reality is after the NBA and ourselves, most of the top quality leagues are European and language is an issue for guys who want to transition from those leagues, or the junior ranks in those countries, to the NBA,” Loeliger said.
“I want to be really careful not to use this to open the flood gates too much. It really is intended for people like Didi, who should be playing in the NBA but need a finishing school of sorts. We can provide a value add for all parties concerned.”
The NBA could remove it’s age limit of 19, which forces many young stars to play one year of college basketball, and that would make it less likely a Ball or Hampton come to the NBL, but Loeliger said he expected it would take years to make such a change.
University of Kentucky coach John Calipari said on Thursday he feared the NBA would add a third round to its draft in future to lure teenage stars into its G-League development system thus stripping star talent from college basketball.
“Changing the one and done rule [the age limit] would be a multi-year project even if they were to announce it tomorrow,” Loeliger said.
“By then we would have had time to improve the model and develop a portfolio of how we have added to these players’ experiences heading into the NBA.
“Time is on our side in that regard. If it was to be implemented tomorrow that would potentially have a detrimental effect on this program but I think it will take time to introduce.”
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.