Imports Demitrius Conger and Delvon Johnson are set to play a central role at this week’s NBL Blitz as Hawks coach Rob Beveridge looks to fine-tune his squad ahead of a demanding start to the new season.
The American duo are the only new additions to Illawarra’s 2017-18 NBL squad, but both are yet to suit up alongside the nine returning players from last season.
Beveridge confirmed that he intends to utilise both Conger and Johnson in all three of Illawarra’s matches at the Blitz.
He could also stick to a 10-man rotation at the tournament to allow teammates the chance to gel quicker with the new duo.
“Really it is about trying to get Conger and Johnson as part of the group,” Beveridge said.
The Blitz comes a month out from the beginning of the regular season, where Beveridge knows his team can ill-afford to have a slow start.
The Hawks have an unenviable opening six weeks to the campaign, with nine of their first 12 matches on the road.
“We have to come out at the season at a really high level and it is going to be really important for us to get early wins,” Beveridge said.
“I think we are advanced as to where we are now but we have to go with that mindset that it is finals time.
“Because we have those games on the road, if we drop the majority of them, we could be in trouble.”
Despite eventually making the grand final, Illawarra started last season slowly after winning the NBL Blitz.
They will begin their defence of that pre-season title against Melbourne United at Traralgon Basketball Centre on Thursday night before facing Cairns Taipans (Saturday) and Sydney Kings (Sunday).
Beveridge was pleased with how his squad had progressed leading into the tournament.
“I think we are very well advanced in where we have been in the past,” he said.
“It is a measuring stick because a lot of cat and mouse is played at these type of tournaments.
“For us, we are just going to go out and play our normal style. Everyone knows what we do.
“It will be interesting to see what the other imports are like.”