It's been a long time between drinks, but Australian basketball legend Andrew Gaze believes these Hawks can bring a NBL championship back to Wollongong.
Twenty-one years after Illawarra won their inaugural title, Gaze likes what he sees with Goorjian's roster.
"I think it's right there with the very best of them. It's early predictions of course, but you've got guys like Tyler Harvey and I read the other day that (Justinian) Jessup's coming back. And with Froling's improvement and based on what they did last year, we expect them to be another legitimate championship contender," Gaze told the Mercury.
"I think that they'll be better off for last year because coming in, they'll be a little more acclimatised with the coach and what they're trying to do. It's also given Brian a better look at his team. He was away for a while, so I think he has a better understanding of what is required. As much of a genius as he is, when you're away from the game for that period of time, a lot changes. And for him coming back and doing an extraordinary job to get the team into the playoffs, it gives him a better understanding and a better chance to make that next step."
Rathan-Mayes is expected to complement Illawarra's other imports, Tyler Harvey and Antonius Cleveland. However, Gaze remains equally as excited about Boomers big man Duop Reath's potential impact.
"He's the one for me. I think he did well (at the Olympics), but he didn't have a huge role and we didn't see a whole lot of him," Gaze said.
"But he's got some good size and clearly that experience of playing for Brian will give him an understanding of him as a coach, but also the system that you'd expect is going to be pretty similar. He's got some European experience too, and was really good at college. He could be one of those players that tips the Hawks over the edge to make improvements on what they did last season.
"If you look at what they did last season, they were pretty close to the mark anyway. You've got Tyler, Justinian, you add Duop and Rathan-Mayes, and then Sam Froling was sensational last season. How that works with the combination with Harry will be interesting. If Harry gets his form going, as his potential has shown, they're going to be a deeper, more talented roster than what they showed last year."
Goorjian promised to use Trice's departure to the Hawks' advantage, and he delivered. Rathan-Mayes' resume includes stints with the Lakers and Grizzlies in the NBA, while he also represented NBA G-League sides Agua Caliente, Texas Legends and Westchester Knicks. The 27-year-old most recently played for Romanian club BC CSU Sibiu.
"We needed another primary ball-handler to complement the guys we already have and Xavier fits the bill," Goorjian said. "He has been in and around some top-level basketball clubs and that experience will fit perfect with our relatively young group. He'll have an important role to play in our back court and we're looking forward to getting him in a Hawks jersey this season."
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