Wellington: Ambitious Tasmanian team the Southern Huskies will make history when they compete in next year's New Zealand domestic basketball league.
Beaten but not bowed after missing out on a licence in the Australian NBL for 2019-20, the Southern Huskies pursued a berth in the Kiwi NBL and have been handed a five-season deal to play in an expanded nine-team competition.
They will become the first overseas sporting franchise to compete in a New Zealand-owned professional league.
It is an interim step for the Southern Huskies, whose target of claiming the next available Australian licence was headed off last month by the South East Melbourne Phoenix.
Southern Huskies chief executive Justin Hickey believed his team can provide a competitive team from day one.
"Hitting the floor in 2019 in a league which has grown into an extremely competitive and commercially viable competition, and one that attracts quality players worldwide, is essential to our future success," Hickey said.
"We've assembled an exciting and extremely competitive team, and we're fully committed to accessing the vast talent pool in Tasmania."
Tasmania hasn't fielded a team in the Australian NBL since the demise of the Hobart Devils in 1997.
They will be coached by Anthony Stewart, whose 17-season career in the NBL began with the Devils before winning two titles with Perth Wildcats and also playing for Cairns and Townsville.
A key player signing this week was that of Adelaide 36ers power forward Harry Froling, the 20-year-old who has returned to Australia after two years in the American NCAA.
The Kiwi league beginning in April is a strong one which runs opposite Australia's and attracts NBL players.
It has been a breeding ground for some of New Zealand's greatest players, such as Steven Adams and Kirk Penney.
Tasmania have pledged to cover the costs of the visiting Kiwi teams for their nine home matches. Those games will be played at a variety of venues on the Apple Isle.
NZ NBL chief executive Iain Potter said the move had the support of the existing eight teams and he expected an Australian element to spark extra interest in the league.