The NBL will return to Canberra as league officials close in on a deal to bring two games to the capital this season in a major coup for basketball in the region.
The Canberra Times can reveal the Illawarra Hawks will return to the capital when they host the Brisbane Bullets on Sunday, November 3.
League officials are working to secure a second game in Canberra with the venue for the Hawks' clash with the NBL's reigning champions, the Perth Wildcats, on January 10 yet to be confirmed.
NBL chief executive Jeremy Loeliger says "we will have two games in Canberra" and Perth's arrival could provide Jesse Wagstaff with a long-awaited homecoming.
The Hawks' return to Canberra means the capital will play host to exciting prospect LaMelo Ball after the NBL's small market battlers landed his signature via the Next Stars program.
The number of eyeballs glued to Canberra from around the globe could be monstrous as the Hawks benefit from Ball's booming following.
The Hawks hosted Cairns at a packed AIS Arena on January 26 this year and Loeliger was rapt with the turnout from Canberra's basketball faithful, who had waited a decade for NBL action.
"We saw record attendances and broadcast audiences last season and we hope this will be another record-breaking season," Loeliger said.
"We will see the return of big name stars such as Andrew Bogut after his NBA stint with Golden State Warriors and quality imports including Bryce Cotton, Casper Ware, Melo Trimble and Shawn Long.
"Adelaide will play in a new venue, we will have two games in Canberra."
NBL chiefs are confident Canberra will host two games despite venues being unconfirmed at this stage.
The AIS Arena and the National Convention Centre, which split hosting rights for the WNBL championship-winning Canberra Capitals, are the front-runners to host the games.
The Hawks-Bullets game is set to be played on a Sunday while the showdown against the all-conquering Wildcats could be played under Friday night lights.
Illawarra welcomed 3344 through the turnstiles in stifling conditions at the AIS Arena in January, a crowd figure that left officials desperate to return.
Among them were a handful of hearty souls wishing for a Canberra Cannons revival best bide their time as the NBL looks to tap into the capital via the Hawks.
Illawarra officials have moved to assure fans their infiltration of Canberra will help to secure the foundation club's future.
Rather than piecing together the foundations for a relocation, they are looking to strike a long-term partnership with the ACT government and Basketball ACT which will benefit each party.
The Hawks will benefit from financial support while giving ACT juniors a pathway to the top level which has been unclear since the Cannons went bust in 2003.
Basketball ACT president Allan Yates is determined to make the most of the partnership in the hope the region can capitalise amidst the "unbelievable" hype surrounding Ball.
"We're very keen to support the games and we look forward to the games that [will] be played this year," Yates said.
Ball headlines a list of highly rated NBA prospects including RJ Hampton, Terry Armstrong and Didi Louzada joining the NBL as part of the league's Next Stars program.
The global teenage sensation, whose signing did enough to convince Barack Obama to follow the Hawks on Twitter, will make his debut for Illawarra against the Bullets at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre on October 6.
The league's surge in popularity in recent years is set to skyrocket even further as Loeliger looks to capitalise on the arrival of some of the world's biggest stars for an international showdown.
"With the Boomers to play the USA in August followed by the FIBA World Cup in China in September, there's never been a more exciting time for basketball in Australia and New Zealand," Leoliger said.
The season will open with a highly-anticipated clash between Melbourne United and the newly-established South Melbourne Phoenix at Melbourne Arena on October 3.
"The Throwdown between Melbourne United and South East Melbourne will re-ignite the massive Melbourne rivalries of the '90s and will be an historic opening to what shapes as the NBL's biggest season ever," Loeliger said.
Melbourne United will front up two days later when they meet Perth Wildcats in a grand final rematch on October 5.
NBL superstar Casper Ware will play his first game for the Sydney Kings against the Cairns Taipans on October 4 following his defection from Melbourne.
The addition of a ninth team in the Phoenix means there will be a total of 126 games across the season, an increase of 14 games from last season.
Each team will play 28 games, with every club to play four teams four times during the season - twice at home and twice on the road. They will play the remaining four teams three times across the season with games split between home and away.
NBL officials expect game times and broadcast details to be confirmed in the coming weeks.