IN our newest countdown series wrapping up the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown, we look at our top 20 players that took to the court this year. While it was an incredibly difficult list to create, we have had a mix of pure domination, defensive efforts and eye-catchers to form this list.
#6 IZAYAH MAURIOHOOHO LE’AFA
When you start to hit the award winners, you know you are in the real pointy end of the countdown. Mauriohooho Le’afa is the top ranked Auckland Huskies talent of four players to make our Top 20 countdown. He shared in the Defensive Player of the Year with Jarrod Kenny, and was named in the All-Star Five at season’s end. While he ended up missing a few games due to injury, it was clear that when he got on the court, the Huskies were a supremely better outfit and Mauriohooho Le’afa was a key reason why the Huskies started to get on a roll leading into the 2020 Sal’s NBL finals series.
In the 2020 season, Mauriohooho Le’afa was ranked second in steals with 2.5 per game behind only Hyrum Harris. His offensive output on the other hand was higher, ranking inside the top five for points with 20.7 per game and as he showed at the pointy end of the season, was capable of putting up big numbers. He was absolutely sensational in the elimination final and almost single-handedly dragged his team across the line and into a semi-final. His shooting accuracy throughout the season was an area of improvement with just 39.4 per cent accuracy from the field, but a lot of that came from his prevalence of shooting the outside ball where he ranked equal second in three-pointers made with three per game.
Throughout the regular season, his best game came against Nelson Giants on July 5 when he put up 32 points at 50 per cent from the field, draining a whopping eight of 14 from outside the arc. He also collected four rebounds, two assists and two steals on the night. His best defensive effort came a few days later when he racked up a season-high nine steals, pickpocketing the Canterbury Rams on his way to 21 points, three rebounds and three assists. But his best game would be saved for last.
Mauriohooho Le’afa stepped up on the big stage in the do-or-die elimination final, sinking 39 points, six rebounds, five assists and one steal in a remarkable 38-minute effort to never die wondering. It was one of the performances of the season and while the Huskies ultimately fell short in that game, Mauriohooho Le’afa went the full four quarters.