When both the then Wollongong Hawks and the Townsville Crocodiles fell into Voluntary Administration (VA) many thought it would be the end for the leagues only surviving club from it’s debut in 1979.
In perhaps the greatest 3 month turnaround in sporting history the Hawks have a new coach, a new name, a new source of funds and with that momentum the Hawks have put together potentially their strongest roster in the history of the club.
Jahii Carson (FA), Gary Ervin (FA), Luke Neville (FA), Adam Ballinger (Retirement), Brad Hill (FA), Gordie Mcleod (Coach), Wollongong (Name)
Rob Beverage (Coach), Illawarra (Name), Kevin Lisch (Spain, Import), AJ Ogilvy (Spain), Kevin White (Sydney), Cody Ellis (Sydney), Kirk Penney (Europe)
When Gordie Mcleod announced that he would not be returning to coach the club after six years at the helm he left a gaping hole for the club to fill. McLeod was the club’s point guard in in 1979 and losing Gordie mean losing part of the team’s character, history and identity.
Enter Rob Beveridge who was last seen taking the Perth Wildcats, without it’s star point guard Damian Martin, to the NBL Grand Final and looks to remind everybody how great a coach he really is.
Beveridge is an NBL championship winning coach, a players coach known for installing gritty, defensive structures that lead his teams to the top of the ladder.
After Rob Beveridge signed onto the Hawks it became clear that it was not only his coaching philosophies that would benefit the Hawks, his strong ties to a number of Australia’s brightest stars gave him a distinct advantage in the recruiting process.
Editors Note: Rob Beveridge has coached six years in the NBL, he’s finished top four every year he has coached except for a year spent with the make-shift Sydney Spirit squad.
Right away the Illawarra Hawks signed Australian big man AJ Ogilvy, who cited his ties to Beveridge from his junior years as one of the major reasons for choosing to play in Illawarra. Ogilvy is a dominant center not just in the NBL, but on an international level where he has played the majority of his career in tough European leagues like Turkey and Spain.
Australia fans last saw AJ in the NBL in 2013/14, plying his trade with the Sydney Kings. AJ was a interior force the rest of the league had no answer for, however once the Kings signed former NBA star Sam Young he willingly become a secondary option on offence and focused on leading the league in rebounds and blocks. An All NBL First-Team award came swiftly after and there’s no reason to think another won’t isn’t on it’s way.
The only concern with Ogilvy is injuries. Last season, Ogilvy struggled with injuries playing in very few games. In the games that he did play he seemed to be far from 100% and there is the question of whether or not he’ll stay healthy this offseason.
The Hawks big signings didn’t stop there. On July 6th, the Illawarra Hawks announced the return of former NBL MVP and 6’2 guard Kevin Lisch. The last time Lisch was in the league he was playing for the Wildcats under the lead of head current Hawks head coach Rob Beveridge. Lisch’s decision to return was also cited as being the Hawks decision to sign Rob Beveridge.
Lisch will bring skill in scoring and defence while also being able to play both point guard and shooting guard, which helps with the Hawks rotation. However skill isn’t the only thing that Lisch will bring, he’ll also bring experience. Being the former NBL champion that he is, he knows what it takes to win a championship and he should help his teammates in that department.
“Big Three’s” are common in the NBA but with Kirk Penney joining the Hawks, there may not have been a big three like this since “Gaze, Bradtke and Copleand” tore up in NBL in the 90’s. Kirk Penney is a sharp shooter who can play either guard or forward and is someone you simply can’t leave open, as he proved during his last stint in the NBL when he was a four-time All NBL Player, a league MVP and dropped 49 points in a 40 minute game.
The only question about Penney is on defence? Will he be able to guard the improved quality of players at his position like Josh Childress and Casey Prather or has age started to limit his mobility?
With two roster spots left the team chose to look an hour away to nab Sydney teammates Cody Ellis and Kevin White to round out the team.
Last year Cody Ellis was extremely under-utilised by the Kings, however in limited he impressed, showing hustle on D, the hunger to attack the rim, while also crashing the board on a consistent basis. For the Hawks, he’s a great pickup, especially as a tenth man. This will also hopefully give Ellis time to grow as a player, while he plays under a great coach.
The only questionable signing by the Hawks this off season maybe unproven Kevin White. Last year White had a down season for the Kings and struggled on the offensive end when it mattered, and on the defensive end, where his trademark game is, he was just average if not slightly below. Another questionable part of this signing is having both White and Demos in the back court off the bench, because both of them don’t really bring much offensively and both of them had a down season last year. It will be interesting to see how Beveridge runs the team if Martin or Lisch are injured, however my guess would be that they would play Penney at Shooting Guard and give Coenraad the start.
An offseason to rival all other offseasons for the Hawks has Illawarra basketball looking as good as the Illawarra coastline.
Offseason Grade: A+