Talented teen jumps in to help the Hawks

More help might be on the way for the injury-jinxed Wollongong Hawks.

Mirko Djeric trained with the club yesterday and could join them for the rest of the season.

A Bankstown junior and Australian under-19 rep, the strapping guard is in his third year at the Australian Institute of Sport and was part of Serbian club Partizan's squad last year.

Fourth-placed Wollongong (9-11) would love to have Djeric's services over the final eight games of the regular season - not to mention the finals, if they get that far.

The Hawks lost starting guards Lance Hurdle and Rhys Martin to season-ending knee injuries a month ago and 19-season veteran Glen Saville bowed out earlier than anticipated when he also sustained a serious knee injury two weeks ago.

Former University of Miami playmaker Malcolm Grant was added late last month as a replacement for Hurdle. And the addition of Djeric would restore coach Gordie McLeod's back court to a solid four-man rotation.

Djeric's Serbian background allows him to play in Europe as a local, but the Hawks want to establish a close relationship with the talented teenager if he decides to stay in Australia.

"We want to try and finish the season off the best possible way that we can," McLeod said.

"We're looking for someone that we might want to try to recruit next year or down the track, but also someone who can come in and hopefully help us straight away.

"We're looking for someone who can come in and join the group and can help give us a lift to the end of the year, whether that's in practice or an opportunity to play. It's more just to help the group get through the back half of the season, but also with the future in mind.

"You have to find someone to suit your situation, and a big part for us is that it's a budget thing and it's an infrastructure thing."

NBL rules stipulate that players must suit up for at least 25 per cent of the regular season to be eligible for the playoffs.

That means the Hawks would have to sign Djeric almost immediately to ensure he is in the line-up for at least seven games.

"If we want to do something we have to do something quickly, because whoever comes into the group has to meet NBL rules," McLeod said.

McLeod believes he is one of the nation's brightest young prospects.

"We had a look at the Institute and spoke to the junior coaches out there, because we want to bring in someone who's excited, who's got a lot of energy and enthusiasm," he said.

"If we were to bring anyone else on there's going to be a learning period, and we're going through that situation with Malcolm. Everything is happening very quickly."

The Hawks face a must-win game at home tonight against Melbourne.

"We have to get more out of everyone in our group," McLeod said.

"The guys already within the group, they're the ones who have to take that next step and give us that lift we need.

"When players drop out of your roster the responsibility falls on everyone else.

"That creates opportunities for people, and in a lot of ways that's exciting because you get to see whether people handle that extra responsibility.

"This is usually the time of year when you're accelerating your development, but your best-laid plans aren't always going to happen," he said.

"You've got to be able to adjust and have some versatility with what you do. When hurdles get out in your way, you have to find ways to get over or around them, and sometimes bash your way through them."

Mirko Djeric (second from left) at Hawks training. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR

Mirko Djeric (second from left) at Hawks training. Picture: KIRK GILMOUR


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