He has become the NBL’s version of Old Man River but Wollongong Hawks linchpin Glen Saville must have been drinking at the fountain of youth in the off-season.
The 36-year-old two-time Olympian left no doubt he’s still got it with a show-stealing performance in Wollongong’s nailbiting 79-76 defeat of the Sydney Kings tonight at WIN Entertainment Centre.
Still going strong in his 19th season, Saville poured in a team-high 21 points, including 10 in the third quarter when the Hawks’ offence was sputtering.
''It took me three or four games to get to 21 points last season,’’ he said.
''In my meetings with [coach] Gordie [McLeod], he wants me to make sure I enjoy my basketball.
''There was a few rough patches for us, but it’s great to start the season with a win at home.’’
The game drew a crowd of 4323 - the biggest for a season-opener at the WEC in almost 10 years.
Off-season signings Lance Hurdle (10 points, two steals) and Adris Deleon (12 points, three steals) were strong in their Hawks debuts, while Larry Davidson (10 points, seven rebounds) and Oscar Forman (13 points) were also instrumental.
Hurdle announced his arrival in spectacular fashion, scoring his side’s first basket with an acrobatic alley-oop dunk.
He followed with a long bomb from the three-point line seconds later, as Hawks fans exchanged nods of approval.
McLeod opted to stick with Rhys Martin as his starting point guard and the 26-year-old got his team on the front foot with two lay-ups and a steal.
Martin took a breather after five minutes, signalling the introduction of Deleon.
The cat-quick playmaker quickly got cooking with a jump-shot and a long three, while Saville had six points to help Wollongong to a 26-20 quarter-time lead.
The Hawks connected on 67 per cent of their shots in the first period, but the Kings (69 per cent) were also in a groove.
Wollongong pushed the margin back up to eight early in the second quarter, but the visitors swiftly took control with 11 unanswered points.
Forward Dan Jackson’s three-pointer from the corner on the shot-clock buzzer got the crowd back in the game and Dave Gruber knocked in a lay-up to tie the score at 38-all with two minutes remaining in the half.
Ben Madgen was out-hustling the Hawks, while imports Corin Henry and Darnell Lazare and veteran centre Ian Crosswhite were also damaging as Sydney stubbornly built a 43-40 half-time lead.
Wollongong were out-rebounded 16-9 in the first half and made just 5/15 shots in the second period.
Deleon and Hurdle combined for 15 points, while Forman, Gruber and Saville had six points apiece.
Almost three minutes ticked by before the home team got the scoreboard moving again.
Rebounding continued to be a weak spot and the Kings worked hard under the boards to hold a 50-47 lead midway through the third quarter.
Saville showed there is plenty of life in the old dog, scoring nine straight points to put the Hawks back up by two.
The Kings regained the lead again briefly before Wollongong surged again to be ahead 61-55 after three quarters.
The Saville show played on in the final period.
After scoring on a left-hander, he grabbed a man-sized offensive rebound and scored again before following with a sweet dish to Davidson for a 67-57 lead with seven minutes to play.
Sydney refused to wilt, trimming the margin to four with four minutes to play.
The Hawks steadied with two baskets from Davidson, only to allow the Kings to pull within two with 14.6 seconds remaining.
Saville hit one of two free throws in the final seconds to preserve Wollongong’s win.
The Hawks hit the road next Friday for a clash with the Cairns Taipans.