Written off since day one this season, the Illawarra Hawks NBL title pursuit just got that little bit tougher.
Just days out from the opening match in their grand final series with the Perth Wildcats, Hawks import Marvelle Harris has been forced to return to the US due to personal issues.
Harris flew to Los Angeles on Friday to be with his critically ill father and will miss game one against the Wildcats on Sunday at Perth Arena.
He departed with the support of the Hawks.
“He goes with our complete blessing,” Hawks coach Rob Beveridge said.
“We are committed to him. It is more important for him to be there.”
Harris was inspirational in the Hawks’ clutch 106-98 victory over the Adelaide 36ers on Thursday night, scoring 17 points in the win.
Beveridge expects to his talented import will be back in time for game two in Wollongong on Wednesday.
But the championship winning coach has another major concern heading into game one, with star centre AJ Ogilvy also in doubt for the clash. Ogilvy played less than eight minutes against Adelaide before being subbed off with an ankle injury.
He has been monitored by club medical staff since and is in a race against time to be fit for the series opener.
"His foot is probably going to blow up on the plane [on Friday] so our medical staff is going to be pretty busy over the next 48 hours to get him on the floor," Beveridge said.
Beveridge admitted the unfortunate circumstances would test his squad on the big stage, but said the Hawks wouldn’t take a backward step in Perth.
"I am not going into to say we are going to concede this game. We are going for it," he said.
"We have got players with massive hearts and commitment to each other.
"We play as team. We have showed we don't rely on just Marvelle or just AJ.
“Obviously it would be ideal to have a fully fit team ready and raring to go.
"The reality is it is not and we are going into battle with what we have got."
Perth are expected to have a full complement of players to chose from after big-man Matt Knight escaped suspension for a unduly rough play charge.