National Basketball League
A Serb arrives this afternoon in Hawke's Bay, on track to become the first European import for the region's basketball franchise.
Darko Cohadarevic is expected to touch down at the Hawke's Bay Airport about 3.25pm before roosting with the HBS Bank Hawks in a bid to boost their campaign to etch their name on the silverware for the second time in the history of the Bartercard National Basketball League (NBL).
New Hawks coach Tab Baldwin said the 26-year-old centre/power forward would be the first non-American or non-Australian signing for the franchise.
"Darko's six foot nine (2.05m) so he's a big boy," Baldwin said of Cohadarevic who has played in the United States, Greece, Georgia and Slovenia.
"He's what you want in the middle position to anchor the team against other sides' big men."
Baldwin said he had never met Cohadarevic who played for AEK (Cyprus) in the 2012-13 season but had got great feedback from one of his extensive network of agents on the Texas Tech graduate.
His discussions with Tall Blacks coach Nenad Vucinic, who was born in Belgrade of the former Yugoslavia before political turmoil led to the country's fragmentation, revealed Vucinic and another Yugoslav national had played in the country in Porirua in 1989.
Vucinic, 47, who arrived here with his wife, is a former Tall Black who has also coached the Nelson Giants in the NBL.
The Hawks have previously signed American and Canadian imports.
Former Hawks forward Adrian Majstrovic has a Slavic name but is born in New Zealand, although his professional career was predominantly in the ANBL for mostly Australian teams.
Baldwin said Cohadarevic was one of two Serbs an agent had put before him.
Those plying their trade in the European leagues were definitely pedigree players.
"Our league's calendar is at a funny time of the year so not too many players are available," he said, emphasising there were many quality players but most had secured contracts in Europe which offered a lengthy season that overlapped the NBL here and was, consequently, more lucrative for professionals to commit to.
It didn't help that the NBA Development League was still in progress in the US. "The Asian leagues are also in progress. China have finished but they are extremely expensive," said Baldwin after returning as coach of the Fujian SBS Xunxing team in China with Vucinic as assistant.
Cohadarevic, he said, was the best player at the best price.