LAYING eyes on Larry Davidson for the first time can be an intimidating experience.
It's not so much the Wollongong Hawks centre's 209cm frame that strikes you as it is his lumberjack beard and confronting haircut.
But as Hawks import Rotnei Clarke quickly found out, Davidson is full of surprises.
Clarke wasn't intimidated when he met his teammate for the first time, but he was certainly curious.
"You look at Larry and wouldn't think he is what he is," Clarke said. "He's a great guy, he's smart, a great leader. On the court he's really vocal. He really helps me a lot, telling me where to go and where to be."
A former high school and college star in the US, Clarke arrived in Wollongong amid a blaze of hype.
After a couple of solid if not spectacular performances in the Hawks' opening trials against Cairns, the 24-year-old sharpshooter settled into his role as the team's main offensive weapon in the final preseason games.
He gives a lot of credit to his teammates for helping him find his feet.
"I was really surprised from the moment I got here with all the talent and everything. It's a great experience for me and a good league to be in," Clarke said.
"The first shock that really hit me was at Cairns, but it was good because I kind of got a feel for the whole game. Playing with a 24-second shot clock coming out of college, it was different to 35 seconds.
"The speed of the game and the physicality was an eye-opener. The preseason was good because it's allowed me to see what it's going to be like.
"Ossie [Forman] is obviously a great captain. All the senior guys like Tim [Coenraad] and Dave [Gruber] and Rhys [Martin] help me out, vocalising where I'm supposed to be at certain times. It's been great for me."
Clarke finished the preseason with a bang, scoring 25 and 30 points in two games against Sydney.
A first-time professional, he is itching to get the regular season under way with Thursday's round one road meeting with reigning champions New Zealand.
"We've had some good practices and got some preseason games under our belt, so I'm just excited the season's here," he said.
"We've come along a huge amount since the start of preseason. Coach Gordie [McLeod] was talking about Cairns and asking us how we thought we'd improved from Cairns to now, and it's a completely different team to what we showed at Cairns.
"I'd just been inserted and didn't really have any clue what was going on. The guys were trying to get a feel for me and I was trying to get a feel how to play with them. We're all starting to mesh well together and it's come just at the right time."
Clarke is likely to be the only import in the Wollongong line-up against the Breakers after Durrell Summers' request for a release was granted last week.
"It's definitely hard losing a guy like Durrell," Clarke said.
"He's a hard guy to replace, just because he can do so many things. It's just tough that it didn't work out with his contract.