Basketball: Jack Salt eager for NBL return despite player welfare concerns

One of New Zealand's rising basketball stars is excited to play in a revised New Zealand NBL.

Jack Salt, who won the NCAA championship last year with the University of Virginia, say he's willing to suit up for the Canterbury Rams, despite lingering concerns over player welfare.

"Honestly, I'm really excited," Salt has told Newshub. "When all this came out with COVID-19, I thought there was no way any league was going ahead in the world.

"So for them to have this league going ahead is huge and I'm happy they're pushing for it, listening to players, and what works best for players and everyone else."

While a competition format is expected to be announced later in the week, the revised six-week competition is understood to involve 6-8 teams based at one central location.

Salt says an initial proposal had teams playing four games a week, but the most recent version sees them playing three games a week, which is more manageable.

"I don't have a high school body anymore, so four games is a little bit much," he says.

"Three games is better - it’s still pushing it a little bit, but I'm happy to listen to advice and open to change."

That advice is likely to come from Tall Blacks Dion Prewster, Jarrod Kenny and Tom Abercrombie, who are representing the playing group in a newly formed NBL Players’ Association.

Prewster has told Newshub there are major concerns over player welfare, including the lack of preparation time, volume of games, number of physios and medical staff, and player accomodation.

As of Sunday, Prewster estimated up to 10 of the league's top players wouldn't be prepared to play because issues around player welfare still hadn't been resolved.

Salt hopes that's not the case.

"I hope they play. That makes the level of competition better, but I respect all of their decisions.

"If they've got other contracts to look out for and they don't want to jeopardise something happening during the period, that's fine.

"But if they would like to play, I think New Zealand would be happy to see those guys on the floor and I would be happy to see those guys on the floor."

If the concerns aren't addressed, there's a high chance the league will be filled with players in the earlier stage of their careers.

Prewster feels they might feel like they're forced to play.

"You have guys who are up-and-coming Tall Blacks, who wan to play, purely for the fact this is the only opportunity to play in front of coaches," Prewster says.

"Regardless of what money they get, they don't care... they just want the opportunity to play.

"So there's ultimately an older group who are not willing to play, because it's just not safe, and the other guys are feeling like this is my only chance."

The league is expected to make an announcement later this week.