IN a season in which the Hawks have gone without playoffs action it’s time to ask what are the big ‘takeaways’ from their 2019 campaign (after all this columnist has always enjoyed a takeaway or two).
Todd Blanchfield’s scoring form after shifting south in search of a bigger role is one, but you’d have to see the emergence of rookie PG Emmett Naar as the biggest positive.
As part of the second unit he and fellow rookie Daniel Grida have managed to turn a number of games for the Hawks this season – Brisbane last week was a major case in point.
The 24-year-old has shown all the vision one would expect of St. Mary’s all-time assists leader, but he’s shown an important ability to score over the latter part of the season.
His breakout game against Sydney in round 13 was arguably the standout performance of the season for the Hawks given the nature and importance of the win.
That developing scoring mentality is something he discussed with this column three weeks ago.
“I think it still is [developing]. I haven’t been too happy with how I’ve shot it this year,” he said.
“My percentages have usually been a bit higher so I think I can improve there and I’d like to. I don’t think I’d really earned that reputation yet where I can knock it down so teams were giving me that shot.
“It can play on your psyche a little bit. Coming in as a rookie it takes some time to feel out your team and you don’t necessarily want to be that guy who comes in and shoots every time.
“You don’t want to piss of the vets, that’s probably not a good way to start. You’ve got to balance that but the vets keep telling me to be aggressive so I don’t have to worry about upsetting them anymore.
“I’ve just got to be confident and let it fly.”
He’s shown enough to suggest he can become one of the best Australian guards in the league, and quickly. Wollongong is certainly the best place to do that.
Rob Beveridge is one just two genuine development coaches in the NBL – Joey Wright being the other – and he’s shown that again in the way both Naar and Grida have come on.
Thankfully for the Hawks faithful, Naar is locked down for the next two seasons, while Grida is also signed for 2020. They’ll face the same temptations as Nick Kay and Mitch Norton down the track but it should keep the poachers at bay for now.
Bevo is yet to commit for that time – though he has an option in his favour for another year – but the chance to oversee the further development of his young brigade is the major incentive to stay.
Naar is certainly hoping he does.
“He’s a players’ coach and he gives you nothing but confidence so he’s just allowed me to go out and play,” he said.
“Throughout the season he’s played me a few times deep into the fourth quarter and that’s been huge.
“I might have a turnover or something late and look over at the bench and think he’s going to pull me but he doesn’t.
“He doesn’t care if you make a mistake and that’s been big time for my confidence.”
OLD HEAD’S LONG-TERM IMPACT
CONTINUING with the rookie theme, while the young-guns have earned plenty of raps, Bevo was quick to point out the role his veterans have played in bringing them through.
If Naar is one of the premier pure point-guards in two years’ time, you can bet his season under Cedric Jackson’s wing will have had plenty to do with it.
Ditto Grida and Dave Andersen. There’s also no doubt Tim Coenraad, who’s been the veteran presence in the second unit, has been a big influence.
He’ll be around again next year and was more than willing to sing their praises.
“When you get young guys come in the one thing you want them to do is work hard and they get in every day, I don’t think they have a day off,” Coenraad said.
“They have an amazing work ethic,I always see them at the Snakepit getting up extra shots.
“Number two you want them to take on information and they do. They listen and they’re willing to learn.
That’s a bright future in itself because they’re going to be here for a while. For us it’s about giving them the right information. Sometimes that might comes across with a bit more force than it should.
“Us older guys are going to get emotional, but they’ve just taken it on board and moved on. That shows a lot of character.”