NBL Season Preview: Wollongong Hawks
On the eve of the NBL kicking off for the 2013/14 campaign, we look at the Wollongong Hawks and their credentials for the upcoming season in the final of our team previews.
2012/13 Record: 13-15 (3rd)
Rotnei Clarke (Butler, College US)
Shane Harris-Tunks (Colorado University, College US)
You Won’t See:
Adris Deleon (Vaqueros de Bayamon, Spain)
Glenn Saville (Retired)
Auryn MacMillan (Melbourne Tigers)
Mirko Djeric (Townsville Crocodiles)
Gordie McLeod (Coach)
Gordie McLeod (Head Coach)
Eric Cooks (Assistant Coach)
PG- Rotnei Clarke
SG- Rhys Martin
SF- Tyson Demos
PF- Oscar Forman
C- Larry Davidson
2013/14 Championship Odds: $8.00
Wollongong enjoyed what most would call a successful 2012/13 season, finishing 3rd and bowing out in the semis to juggernaut Perth. Led by captain Oscar Forman and star import guard Adris Deleon, the Hawks managed to essentially finish as the ‘best of the rest’, which saw just two wins separate themselves and 7th placed Townsville.
The losses of import Lance Hurdle and stalwart Glen Saville to season-ending injuries made life tougher, but the Hawks managed to overcome the adversity and finish off the season strongly. Staying ahead of the pack will be even more crucial, and difficult, in 2013/14.
Wollongong recruited well at the import spots while most of their 2012/13 squad has returned, giving them a sense of continuity that is absent in some of their rivals. Only three new players and seven returning boded well for a team looking to build. However, the release of Durrell Summers due to contract disputes just a week out from the season has thrown their plans into disarray.
The two Americans, Rotnei Clarke and Summers, have been impressive in pre-season since arriving and look to be winning choices to replace the stellar Deleon, who averaged 16.4ppg and enjoyed a blistering second half of the season.
Clarke, straight out of the college system at Butler, is not what you’d expect in an import but everything the Hawks need. He has enjoyed a hot start to his Wollongong career over the pre-season, averaging close to 30ppg in a number of shooting master classes. While he may well live and die by his shot, his college numbers of 16.9ppg at 40% from beyond the arc and 90% at the charity stripe are enough to suggest he will continue to deliver.
However, he will have to go it alone to begin the season after the untimely release of Summers. The Clarke-Summers partnership had looked rock solid and looked capable of challenging the Ennis-Beal combo for best import duo by season’s end.
Summers came to Australia from the NBA D-League, where he put up 16ppg and 4.1rpg over 50 games last season. Losing that firepower will hurt the Hawks, and finding a strong replacement as quickly as possible will go a long way to getting the Hawks back into the playoffs.
The major issue over the pre-season has been the lack of help Clarke and Summers had been getting, with Oscar Forman in particular well down on his 2012/13 numbers. He averaged an impressive 11.7ppg at an astonishing 48% from the 3-point line, to go with 6.1rpg. He led from the front and will need to recapture that form if the Hawks want to challenge, particularly while they search for a second import.
The likes of Tim Coenraad, Dave Gruber and the returning Larry Davidson also hold the key, given they form part of an undersized front court. Despite giving away inches, all three can rebound the ball and make a nuisance of themselves at the offensive end.
The Hawks will fancy their chances of getting back to the semi-finals; however it will be difficult given that six competitive teams will need to squeeze into the final two playoff slots by season’s end. While there is no doubt they have the talent, Clarke will need help from the players around him, namely Forman and Davidson, to stay in finals contention throughout. Given early injuries to key personnel for a number of their playoff rivals, the loss of Summers brings the Hawks back to the pack. Like Melbourne, their finals chances hinge on the replacement import.