Hawks recruit Emmett Naar admits the decision to link up with Illawarra for the long term was a no-brainer.
The 24-year-old point guard only made his first appearance at the Snakepit on Tuesday, but was the second player signed for the 2018-19 NBL season when he put pen to paper on a three-year deal back in May.
“My agent and I talked about it and we thought this was a pretty ideal location so when they asked, I was super excited. The deal got done pretty quick,” Naar said.
“There wasn’t much to it from there.
“It’s a dream come true. Everyone wants to play professionally from the moment you start playing.
“For me, I wanted to play in the World Championships for Under 19s then go to college and then play professional.
“I have been able to do that and this league is a really great league. To play with Mum and Dad down the road and with these sort of fans is ideal.”
Naar arrived in Wollongong over the weekend.
The St Mary’s College product had spent the bulk of the past month in the US playing with the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Summer League.
With number one NBA draft pick Deandre Ayton also on the Suns roster, Naar said it proved to be an invaluable experience.
“To be part of the NBA and Phoenix Suns organisation to see firsthand what top 10 draft picks are like and how they go about their day was pretty great for me at the start of my professional career,” he said.
“Even running into people like [Dallas owner] Mark Cuban court side was pretty unreal to think the amount of money that was in those gyms.
“If I got the chance to do it I would do it again.”
Naar arrives in the NBL with an outstanding pedigree after five solid years in the US collegiate system with St Mary’s.
He departed as the West Coast Conference school’s all-time leader in assists, breaking the previous record held by current Boomers and NBA guard Matthew Dellavedova. The Gaels have a strong history of developing Australia’s best young guards, with Dellavedova and San Antonio Spur Patty Mills both also attending the college.
“They do something right with point guards,” Naar said.
“It was pretty great for me to go there and to be able to play with, at one point six other Australians, was cool as well.”
Naar got a tough introduction to life in the Illawarra after reporting for duty for the first time over the weekend.
His first task?
A 13.6km slog up Mount Keira and Mount Kembla alongside new Hawks teammate Kevin White as part of the Greenarces Mountain To Mountain Challenge.
“When I was told I was coming down, I didn’t really know what it was but I enjoyed it,” Naar said.
“To be able to meet some people from around town, who I will probably see multiple times, it was great to be able to get start like that.”
Illawarra will open their season against Melbourne United on October 12.