Illawarra Hawks 18/19 Preview

Originally posted on The Big Leagues Daily by MVP Coach Mark Vallance.

The Illawarra Hawks turned over most of their roster during the off-season and have added some great players to their team, will it be enough though?

AJ Ogilvy, Kevin White and Tim Coenraad are the only holdovers from the 2017/2018 season with everyone else around them being new to the club.

Season 18/19 Roster:

David Andersen (F/C), Todd Blanchfield (G/F), Tim Coenraad (F), Brian Conklin (F), Daniel Grida (G/F), Cedric Jackson (G), Jordair Jett (G), Emmett Naar (G), Marshall Nelson (G), Andrew Ogilvy (C), Kevin White (G)

Possible Starting Five:

AJ Ogilvy, Brian Conklin, Todd Blanchfield, Jordair Jett, Cedric Jackson

Whichever way you look at it, that is not a bad starting lineup at all. The shooting may be an issue but the inside presence and ability for players to get to the basket is extremely solid.

Starting at the five spot, Ogilvy had a very disappointing season in the one just gone and will be looking to find his 2016 form. On his day he is clearly one of the best centres in the league and could very easily average 20pts and 10rbds on the season.

Brian Conklin will pair with Ogilvy in the big man spots and as a former NBL MVP winner, he brings a serious game to the table. However, he is prone to the occasional brain-fade and in the past has enjoyed swinging his elbows around. In his last season in the NBL, 2016 with the Townsville Crocodiles, his season was marred by two incidents involving swinging elbows – in one he broke the jaw of Perth guard Damien Martin. If he can avoid that sort of trouble, he is a formidable player who can score in multiple ways inside the three point line, get to the free throw line constantly and rebounds with the best of them.

Next up is Todd Blanchfield in the three spot, he moves to his fourth NBL club in his career having previously played for the Townsville Crocodiles, Melbourne United and Sydney Kings. Since leaving the Crocs he hasn’t quite found that same form he had in his final season with them, he’s shown glimpses but never had a full season of greatness since. With this team he should find some additional freedom that he didn’t have in Melbourne or Sydney and Cedric Jackson is a perfect fit for him as a point guard in this team. Having Ogilvy and Conklin as big inside presences also allows more space for Blanchfield to operate in around the perimeter.

Jordair Jett will line up alongside Cedric Jackson at the guard positions and both players are able to break down a defender and make their way to the basket. Jett never seems to be moving at a high speed, imagine a Paul Pierce-esque style of play, that appears to lull his defender and gives him time and space to attack.

Jackson is the player who will “set the table” for everyone else, he led the league in assists for four seasons and his all-round game is so good he has been named league MVP as well. He can create his own shot, break down defenders to get to the basket and is a serviceable but not deadly three point shooter. His defense is also very solid.

The Depth:

This is where things could become a bit hit-and-miss for the Hawks – David Andersen, Kevin White, Emmett Naar and Tim Coenraad will be the names called off the bench.

Everyone knows what to expect with Andersen in terms of his game play but how much fuel is left in the tank? Andersen started his career with the Hawks 20 years ago in 1998, he’s been around the world and won everywhere he’s been and can still beat up on players but age and the miles in the legs have got to be catching up.

Kevin White is more of a defensive asset than an offensive one, sure he can hit the three when his feet are set but he isn’t the type to create for himself offensively. He will be relying on Jett or Jackson to create, find and hit him on the perimeter for an open look.

Tim Coenraad can shoot the ball but he doesn’t do it game-in-game-out, he’ll have a game of 20pts one week and then 3pts the following hit out. He is a tough nut on the court though and if there’s one thing you can rely on him to do it’s to get the home crowd fired up with some hard play at the ball.

Emmett Naar is coming into the league after a college career at the Australian favourite St Mary’s, there he surpassed Matthew Dellavedova in holding the school’s all-time assists record. If he can play consistently off the bench in the majority of games he suits up for, he could be a candidate for rookie of the year come seasons end but he is an unknown quantity at the professional level.

The Gameplan:

With players like Jackson and Jett able to create space for themselves and teammates, the gameplan for the Hawks should be rather simple – look to attack the paint, find the open man, attack, attack, attack. Ogilvy, hopefully fighting fit this season, is a best asset on this team inside and he will prove a tough player to stop for just about every other big man in the league. With Jackson penetrating the defense and causing defense to collapse on him, Ogilvy should find himself open a fair amount. If his player doesn’t help then Jackson, or Jett, will have a one-on-one matchup to the ring.

Todd Blanchfield is really the only perimeter shooting threat on this teams starting five, so attacking the paint early can draw his defender further away from him and allowing him that extra split second needed to get off his shot. If his player doesn’t sag off and plays full denial defense on Blanchfield then he can be utilised in pick-and-roll/pop situations or head to the deep corner to draw his player away from the paint for more open lanes to the basket/space for Ogilvy and Conklin.

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