Rookie MacMillan seizes NBL chance

BASKETBALL

Hawks fans hadn't even heard of Auryn MacMillan six months ago.

He still might not be a household name around Wollongong, but MacMillan is proving he is more than just a 204-centimetre benchwarmer in the absence of injured teammate Larry Davidson.

After seeing little court time in Wollongong's first 10 games, the 25-year-old rookie has averaged 19 minutes over the past three matches, tallying 21 points, nine rebounds and five blocks.

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The Hawks are counting on MacMillan to establish a strong inside presence in tonight's home clash with two-time defending champions New Zealand.

"That game against Perth, I really wanted to make a good first impression on the league and the fans, and I guess it was a breakout game for me to a certain degree," MacMillan said of last month's 12-point, four-block performance against the Wildcats.

"It was good to have that opportunity and come out and contribute, and since that game I've just been trying to slot into the team and do what the team needs. If that's chasing rebounds or defending a big man, I just want to try and help the team win. That's always my No 1 goal."

MacMillan has savoured the positive feedback he has received over the past few weeks.

"I've noticed some people chatting here and there on Twitter after the game and found a bunch of tags, so that side of it has been fun," the former Kilsyth Cobras star said.

"You get a little more recognition around the street from people saying 'good game, keep it up'. It's not something I'm used to but I enjoy it."

Davidson is recovering from a broken rib and is due back in a fortnight.

Hard-working forward Dave Gruber has filled Davidson's spot in the starting five over the past three games, while MacMillan has been his understudy off the bench.

MacMillan accepts his minutes will be cut back when Davidson returns.

"When Laz comes back, that will mean reduced minutes, but I don't mind that because I'm looking forward to seeing our team fully functioning with everybody on deck," MacMillan said.

"We're a much stronger team with Laz involved, so if that means less minutes for me it's a small price to pay.

"With Timmy [Coenraad] on the verge of coming back and hopefully Jacko [Dan Jackson] healthy again in a short while, we'll be 11-deep. There's few teams, if any, that can say they can go 11-deep."

Most NBL followers are tipping the Breakers to brush aside the depleted Hawks.

"That's a situation I personally love - everyone writing you off before the game and coming out and proving everyone wrong," MacMillan said.

"That Perth game was a similar situation. Hardly anyone would've tipped us to beat them after they pumped us at their place the week before, and the fact we were down Laz.

"That gave us that extra bit of motivation to get out there and take it to them.

"We know the Breakers a little bit from preseason," he said.

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