All eyes on Snakes and Ball
THE eyes of the basketball world will be on the Cairns Taipans on Monday night and their players and coaches like it that way.
Of course, the north Queensland NBL club will be desperate to bounce back from their 0-2 start to the season against the Illawarra Hawks.
But, in the back of their mind, all the players from the Snakes will know that plenty of NBA scouts will have their eyes firmly planted on them.
The focus of the basketball world will be on Cairns because of Hawks teen prodigy LaMelo Ball.
Brisbane's round 1 triumph over Ball and the Hawks last Sunday was the most watched match in NBL history, with more than one million people in the US watching the live stream of the game on Facebook.
The NBL is streaming a selection of games during the 2019-20 season live on Facebook Watch, via the NBL Facebook page, and they tuned in on-masse to see the much-hyped Ball play his first game in Australia as part of the Next Stars program.
The program is designed to help young stars in the US prepare for the NBA, and the eyes of the basketball world are on Australia as a result.
Rookie Snake Kouat Noi is destined for the NBA draft next season while the club's import trio will want to impress those back home.
Cairns Assistant Coach Jamie O'Loughlin says the club is embracing the extra attention that comes through Ball's popularity.
"It is amazing really for everyone in the league to have that presence world wide," O'Loughlin said.
"The quality of the game is going up, it is exciting.
"Hopefully it can open doors for players, administrators and coaches to take things to the next level.
"Kouat just wants to perform no matter what, this will be no different, he will want to back it up."
Round 1 also saw the highest average crowd per game in the 42-season history of the NBL.
"We do not want to get too caught in the limelight but it is a great opportunity for everyone," Cairns combo-guard Mirko Djeric said.
"Our goal, we need to play as a team and get results for Cairns and the Taipans."
NBL owner and executive chairman Larry Kestelman said the huge numbers confirmed the competition's ever-growing global status behind the NBA.