Alex John Pledger (born 27 March 1987) is a New Zealand professional basketball player for Melbourne United of the National Basketball League (NBL). He is also a regular member of the New Zealand national team.
Pledger played NCAA Division I basketball for two seasons with the University of Missouri Kansas City Kangaroos. In his freshman season, he saw action in eight games while playing sparingly off the bench. Pledger saw significantly more action in his sophomore year, playing in 29 of 32 games while starting 23 of them. He averaged 5.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game and added 31 blocks, which ranked third in the Mid-Continent Conference.
After a foot injury limited him to one game in the 2007–08 season, Pledger transferred to Belmont Abbey College in 2008 for his final college season. Pledger played in twelve games for the Division II Crusaders in 2008–09, averaging 12.1 points to go along with a team-leading 5.9 rebounds and 19 blocks.
After graduating from Belmont Abbey, Pledger returned to New Zealand and joined the Waikato Pistons. He played in eight regular season games for the Pistons in 2009, averaging 3.3 points and 3.1 rebounds and helping the Pistons finish on top of the ladder with a 14–2 record. The Pistons went on to win their second consecutive championship in 2009 with a 2–0 Finals series victory over the Nelson Giants. His stint with the Pistons led to him being picked up by the New Zealand Breakers as a development player for the 2009–10 NBL season. In his lone season as a development player, Pledger appeared in nine games and averaged 1.7 and 1.4 rebounds. He returned to Waikato for the 2010 New Zealand NBL season and proved to be an impressive post player, averaging 11.5 points, 12.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 17 regular season games. With a 13–5 second-place finish, the Pistons made it back to the Finals series where they were defeated by the Wellington Saints in three games.
Pledger's impressive stint with the Pistons in 2010 earned him elevation to the New Zealand Breakers full-time playing squad for the 2010–11 season. He quickly grew into a valuable back-up centre behind Gary Wilkinson, as the big-man pair helped the Breakers win their maiden NBL championship with a 2–1 grand final series win over the Cairns Taipans. In 34 games for the Breakers in 2010–11, he averaged 6.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. His promising season with the Breakers led to a dominated New Zealand NBL season with the Pistons in 2011. He earned league MVP honours after leading the Pistons to a 13–3 record with 16.8 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game (in 12 regular season games). While poised to face Wellington in the Finals once again, the Pistons stumbled in their semi-final clash with the Hawke's Bay Hawks, losing 95–86.
Pledger continued to back-up Gary Wilkinson in 2011–12 and helped the Breakers win back-to-back championships. Following the championship win with the Breakers, he joined the Auckland Pirates and won another championship within a matter of months, leading the Pirates to the 2012 title with a Finals MVP performance.
With Wilkinson's departure from the Breakers in 2012, Pledger became the club's main big man for the 2012–13 season. During the season, he was twice named Player of the Week and recorded career-best numbers with averages of 10.7 points and 7.3 rebounds. For a second straight year, the Breakers faced the Perth Wildcats in the grand final series, a series they swept 2–0 to claim just the second NBL three-peat in league history.
After a great season in 2012–13, Pledger missed the majority of the 2013–14 season with a left ankle injury and appeared in just 13 games. The Breakers subsequently finished outside the top four in 2013–14, missing the playoffs for the first since 2010.
Pledger returned to action in 2014–15 as a back-up to Ekene Ibekwe, and won his fourth NBL championship when the Breakers defeated the Taipans 2–0 in the grand final series.
On 18 March 2015, Pledger recommitted to the Breakers before going under the knife to have his turf toe problem repaired. The Breakers returned to the grand final in 2016, where they lost 2–1 to the Perth Wildcats. He appeared in 31 of the team's 33 games in 2015–16, averaging 6.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
In 2016, Pledger returned to the New Zealand NBL for the first time since 2012, joining the defending champion Southland Sharks alongside Breakers' assistant coach and Sharks head coach Judd Flavell, as well as Breakers' teammate Everard Bartlett and Duane Bailey. In 19 games for the Sharks, he averaged 16.5 points, 11.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.4 blocks per game.
On 9 April 2016, Pledger re-signed with the Breakers on a three-year deal.
Following the 2016–17 NBL season, Pledger returned to the Southland Sharks for the 2017 New Zealand NBL season. However, he spent a portion of the Sharks' season on the sidelines due to concussion-related problems. In 17 games, he averaged 13.2 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.8 blocks per game.
On 31 October 2017, Pledger re-signed with the Sharks for the 2018 season.
On 18 May 2018, after mutually agreeing to part ways with the New Zealand Breakers, Pledger signed with Melbourne United for the 2018–19 season.
In April 2019, Pledger re-joined the Sharks for the 2019 season.
On 30 April 2019, Pledger re-signed with United for the 2019–20 season. On 18 November 2019, he was sidelined for six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a right ankle injury.
National team career
Pledger made his senior debut with the New Zealand national team at the 2008 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament, seeing limited action off the bench for the Tall Blacks. He also played for the team at the 2009 FIBA Oceania Championship. Pledger saw significantly more action, recording 16 points and six rebounds in Game 1 in a narrow loss to Australia before adding 15 points and a game-high 13 rebounds in a New Zealand Game 2 victory that gave the Tall Blacks their third Oceania Championship.