The Wollongong Hawks aren’t relying on newcomer Kevin Tiggs to turn the team into an instant title contender.
American import Tiggs arrived in Australia on Monday and will play his first game in Wollongong colours tonight against Adelaide.
The 29-year-old swingman will play a backup role off the bench to starting three-man Tim Coenraad and looms as a potential X-factor for Hawks coach Gordie McLeod.
But the Hawks don’t view Tiggs as some kind of saviour.
‘‘We play by committee and that’s how we’ve had success in the past,’’ Wollongong forward Dave Gruber said.
‘‘I don’t think it’s fair to put that kind of pressure on him to say ‘hey, this guy’s the answer. We lost our first game and we’re looking for this import to dig us out of a hole.’ That’s not us, that’s not how we play.
‘‘We’re going to have a lot of guys who can score on any given night. It’s not up to [guard] Rotnei [Clarke] or Kevin to score 20 a night and the rest of us take the night off. We need to have everybody up to the table every night.’’
Wollongong started well in last week’s season-opener against title-holders New Zealand, but were out-played over the final three-quarters, going down by 19.
The addition of Tiggs will certainly help, though Adelaide are likely to have Olympian Adam Gibson and import Jarrid Frye back on deck after injuries forced them out of last week’s 83-80 loss to Perth.
‘‘Kevin will be good for us once we get him up to speed,’’ Gruber said.
‘‘He’ll fit in well. He’ll give us some depth, and that extra depth is something we’ve lacked, especially when guys get in foul trouble.
‘‘We don’t know a whole lot of how he’ll fit in yet. We’re still trying to work his strengths out. The coaches identify that stuff in the recruiting process, but until you get a guy on the court playing with everybody and running our plays, it’s kind of difficult.
‘‘A lot of our guys are versatile and Kevin might be able to bring that as well, being able to play two or three positions, depending on match-up situations.’’
Gruber might have more responsibility on his shoulders than usual tonight. The 198-centimetre forward will be up against either 216-centimetre Luke Schenscher or 212-centimetre Daniel Johnson.
‘‘It’s definitely a massive challenge this week, given their size,’’ Gruber said.
‘‘We have to make sure we do our work early and keep them away from the basket as much as possible, and try and limit their touches. Once they get it close to the basket they’re hard to stop.
‘‘It’s not just their bigs, because they’re pretty loose offensively and like to get up and down. We have to contain Gary [Ervin] in the open floor and stop them in transition.’’
McLeod demands more from his senior players
Wollongong coach Gordie McLeod has demanded more from his senior players in tonight’s on-the-road duel with the Adelaide 36ers.
The Hawks lost two of their greatest leaders in the past two years with the retirements of Mat Campbell and Glen Saville.
Defence was one of the pair’s strengths, particularly their ability to communicate and keep everyone’s mind on the job.
Centre Larry Davidson grabbed the baton from Campbell and Saville and marshals Wollongong’s troops at the defensive end.
But after watching his side give up 93 points in last week’s loss to the New Zealand Breakers, McLeod wants every player to take more responsibility.
‘‘Our defence just wasn’t good enough,’’ he said.
‘‘It was disappointing that we weren’t able to find a way to get ourselves back in the game.
‘‘We didn’t have enough guys playing to the level we need them to play at.
‘‘There’s a lot of changes to our group, and those changes are in our main nucleus. Guys are now having to step up and take a lot more responsibility. We have to find ways to defend people.
‘‘[Communicating in defence] was one of the real strengths of the senior players that are no longer here. They really used to help in that area enormously. We have to move that load on to other people and find where we’re at.’’
The loss to the Breakers might not have been the thrashing the score suggested.
Wollongong won the rebound count, out-scored their opponents on points in the paint and had nine turnovers.
‘‘There were a number of positive things to come out of it. If we can build on that against Adelaide, we’re going to give ourselves a chance,’’ McLeod said.
‘‘We’re going to play one of the teams which has recruited pretty well.
’’They’re tipped to do very well so it’s a good challenge for us.
‘‘Hopefully we can go over there with the right game plan and an aggressive mindset, and really cause some headaches.’’
McLeod was pleased to have new import Kevin Tiggs cleared to make his NBL debut.
‘‘Obviously we’re going to need him to be assertive, but you can see that there’s an unselfishness about him,’’ he said.
‘‘We haven’t really seen too much because he’s just learning what we’re doing. He’s arrived in a new environment, a new culture. He’s getting to know new teammates and the terminology we use is different to what he’s used to so his mind is just going to be spinning.’’