Rhys looks ahead and sights future

BASKETBALL

Long described as a coach-in-the-making, Rhys Martin will soon find out what it's like to call the shots from the sideline.

The Wollongong Hawks playmaker isn't about to draw the curtain on his NBL career. Far from it.

But Martin will spend his off-season coaching the Illawarra Hawks in the 2014 Waratah Basketball League season.

Former coach Shawn McEachin has returned to Canberra for work reasons, allowing Martin to see if he has what it takes to coach.

"I helped Shawn out a little bit last year and it's a good side of the game for me to focus on for after basketball, if that's something I want to do," he said.

"The main focus for me is to streamline the Hawks' [Waratah] and NBL program, because it's never really been in sync with any kind of structure or philosophies.

"If you look at the powerhouse [second-tier] programs, they're usually feeding an NBL team and they have a really strong connection. Townsville and Cairns for instance, both those programs are very strong and they have guys in the NBL who come back and play in off-season in the [QBL] program."

Lining up for Illawarra will be Hawks rookie Dominique Cooks and development squad players Luke Jamieson and Jordan Barry.

Ex-Hawks Zac Delaney and Alex Beagley have committed for the season, while former Illawarra junior standout Sean Mullan is back after four years of US college basketball.

Martin insisted his role would be strictly confined to the bench.

"I might have some secret signings, some big names that might step in and play, so there probably won't be any room for me," the 27-year-old said.

"It's a great opportunity for the kids playing Youth League to step up. It's something that's going to help the Hawks long term. Having kids playing with professional athletes, they get used to the speed and the physicality at a young age.

"If they learn the ins and outs of what we do and why we do it, they're well prepared."

Martin is looking forward to tomorrow's make or break clash with titleholders New Zealand.

"We're playing good basketball at a time that really matters," he said.

"If we can keep that rolling, we can make it four straight wins."

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