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2014/15 NBL Season Preview: Wollongong Hawks
The Wollongong Hawks were the fairytale story of last season due to their miracle run to the NBL Playoffs, capped off by a Rotnei Clarke MVP crowning. Let's take a look at what's in store for the Hawks in season 2014/15.
2013/14 Record: 13-15 (4th)
The Wollongong Hawks' 2013/14 season was a tale of two halves but ultimately one that should be considered a success. There were many who predicted a tough year last year for the South Coast team and when the season started, the doom and gloom looked to be well and truly set in. The Hawks lost 9 of their first 12 games, including a 40 point drubbing at the hands of the Perth Wildcats in round four. The back end of the season was much better with the Hawks getting hot and winning seven of their final nine games to snatch the fourth and final playoff spot.
They were led by the sharp shooting Rotnei Clarke, who wound up as the league’s Most Valuable Player, and second import Kevin Tiggs, who took out the Sixth Man of the Year award, but fell to the eventual champion Perth Wildcats in their first round playoff series.
New Additions: Gary Ervin (Adelaide 36ers), Jahii Carson (Arizona State, US College), Luke Nevill (Taiwan Leopards), Brad Hill (Sydney Kings), Adam Ballinger (Melbourne Tigers), Kyle Adnam
Back Again: Tyson Demos, Oscar Forman, Larry Davidson, Dave Gruber, Dominique Cooks
Not Returning: Rotnei Clarke (Belgium), Kevin Tiggs (released), Rhys Martin, Shane Harris-Tunks
Jahii Carson (left) will team up with Gary Ervin to create the NBL's most explosive backcourt.
Jahii Carson made his presence known in recent pre-season action as the diminutive point guard displayed his array of skills including flashy ball handling, quick feet and an amazing ability to levitate above the rim. Check out the highlights of him winning the dunk competition held at the NBL Blitz in Brisbane for proof of his insane vertical leap.
Carson certainly has the athleticism to be a star in this league but it’s his partnership with Gary Ervin that will determine just how far the Hawks can go this season.
The former Arizona State point guard may lack size but he more than makes up for it with his ability to beat his man off the dribble and finish at the rim. He is also an adept three-point shooter as his 39.1% from behind the arc last season with Arizona State shows.
Carson is one of the most exciting players to enter the NBL this season, in what is fast becoming a destination for high quality imports. An athletic specimen of the highest ilk, Carson is a key player for Wollongong this season and one that will undoubtedly feature in many a highlight reel but just how good he can be is yet to be determined and it's this unknown quantity, which so often comes with new imports in the league, that will be the deciding factor for the Hawks finals prospects this year.
The loss of their two top scorers from last season, Rotnei Clarke and Kevin Tiggs, who were fourth and thirteenth in points per game in the NBL in 2013/14, will pose serious problems for the Hawks offense. The addition of the super athletic Jahii Carson and former MVP and Hawks fan favourite Gary Ervin will go a long way towards filling that void but just how well these two can play the one and two guard positions respectively remains to be seen.
Their lack of depth at shooting guard also poses a problem with Ervin likely to take the starting role at the position with only Dominique Cooks as back up. Brad Hill is a quality pick up for Wollongong and should give the Hawks some leadership in their second unit off the bench.
The late addition of Australian national centre Luke Nevill was a big coup for the Hawks and will provide them with a much-needed presence inside the paint, particularly while Larry Davidson remains sidelined with injury. While Wollongong won't be a title contender this season, they do have a good chance of making the playoffs should Ervin and Carson develop any kind of chemistry and figure out a way to share the ball handling duties. In saying that, it's likely they will just miss the top four with a number of strong rosters in the league all vying for a spot in the finals.
NBL Championship Odds: $21