(Image Source Wollongong Hawks)
The Wollongong NRE Hawks will face a stern test when they kick off their 2011-12 NBL campaign against defending champions the New Breakers at the WIN Entertainment Centre tonight.
Although they will have a home advantage, opposition doesn’t come any stronger than the Breakers who will be looking to continue their solid start to the season having defeated the Gold Coast 102-87 on Friday night, as they attempt to defend their NBL crown.
The Hawks will be looking to start their season off on a positive note, following a disappointing run last season which eventually saw them miss the playoffs after a strong start to their campaign.
There will be some solidarity amongst the team with nine players from last season’s roster being retained, with former import Dave Gruber now qualifying as an Australian citizen, having passed the test earlier this year.
The talking point of the Hawks pre-season has been the signing of former University of Oregon forward Joevan Catron, who will make his NBL debut.
Catron was signed by the club earlier in the year along with fellow American Donovan Monroe, who was expected to fill the position vacated by last season’s NBL MVP Gary Ervin, but was released only a month later, leaving the club with a vacant import slot as their search to replace Ervin continues.
Rhys Martin, who has played primarily off the bench in recent years’, is now the favourite to start in the point-guard position, which has been left vacant by Ervin who signed with Ukrainian club BC Kyiv earlier this year.
The Breakers have maintained a strong roster with many players returning from last season, although they will be without former NBA player Kirk Penney, who has moved on to play in Europe following an outstanding 2010-11 season where he was instrumental in securing the championship for the club with his incredible three point shooting.
The Hawks will be fighting fit and ready to go with captain Mat Campbell expected to play having overcome a knee injury, ensuring they will be at full strength for what should be an intense opening encounter.
The match and the Hawks season tips off at 7.30 at the WIN Entertainment Centre tonight.