VERSATILITY is something Darryl Jones thrives on but given a choice he has no doubts about where he wants to be on a basketball court.
"I enjoy pushing people around so I like to get quite physical," says the IMS Payroll Hawks player.
The Hawks tip off at 7pm against the Taranaki Mountain Airs today in Napier.
Jones, who is shrugging off influenza this week, is adept at marshalling the perimeter of the court or pulling out the knuckle duster in the lanes of contention when the need arises.
He hastens to add he isn't as big as former Tall Black power forward and Waikato Pistons coach Pero Cameron nor is he a clutch, three-point specialist.
"I'm not too bad at shooting so on the off-chance I'll let one go," says the 28-year-old Rotorua-born forward who is in his debut season with the Tab Baldwin-coached Hawks, who have a win and a loss in the Bartercard National Basketball League (NBL).
Basically his portfolio is to unsettle his counterparts to create space and time for the high-twitch fibre blokes to find love from the rim.
Jones, who stands at 1.93m, arrived in the Bay from the Nelson Giants to be closer to his family in the North Island.
Roosting with the Hawks has been a pleasurable experience for a player who plied his trade with the Otago Nuggets, too.
"I'm enjoying it. The chemistry with a bunch of good guys is there," he reveals, adding the familiar faces of captain Paora Winitana and point guard Jarrod Kenny as former rivals help while he builds a rapport with newcomers in the NBL.
While the Daryn Shaw and Willie Banks-coached Taranaki aren't the strongest team in the league, Jones feels they have good players and leaders.
"You can't afford to back off against any team because they'll beat you if you don't show them respect."
He laments losing their opening match on the road to the Wellington Saints but reckons they have found the ideal tonic in the 86-75 victory over the Pistons at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, on Friday last week.
Having made Tall Blacks trials in earlier seasons, Jones has not given up on representing his country.
"You always dream and have goals to be better and aim for the top spot.
"If you work hard enough it'll pay off some day."
He played basketball and rugby as a child but when he got to high school he had to choose because of training clashes.
"My old man was a rugby and rugby league player but I'm told my aunties played basketball," he says, revealing that his cousin, Dylan Perfect-Tait, played for the Hawks once upon a time.
Baldwin sees Jones as a pivotal player this season as the Hawks sit on the fourth rung of the NBL ladder.
"Darryl flies below the radar but he's a glue player who holds us together."
The multiple NBL title-winning coach says while he may not feature in the stats sheets after each game, his dexterity on the court speaks volumes.
Winitana returns tonight in the third round after missing the previous game because his wife, Tia, gave birth to their fifth son on game night.
Matt Bird is out while Matt De Marcus and Ravi Mani have been added to the matrix.
Having watched videotape footage of Taranaki, Baldwin says it's hard to draw too many conclusions on the visitors from their only game and 82-74 defeat to the Manawatu Jets last weekend.
He echoes the sentiments of Jones, mindful blokes such as Aaron Bailey-Nowell and Brett Anderson are "proven performers and good athletes".
Then there's the imports to contend with - guard Adrian Oliver who scored 30 points against the Jets and 2.06m centre Suleiman Braimoh.
"The big man [Braimoh] came off the bench because he wasn't in the country long, so they are easing Suleiman into the NBL."
Home-grown biggies such as Kaye McKee and Todd Fisher are equally capable of ruffling the feathers of the Hawks who have in previous seasons stumbled against the minnows of the NBL.
"Anytime you play these teams there's a perception they are in the bottom half of the league so you have be very cautious," he says, emphasising the NBL is only a week old and it's not good to become complacent about opposing sides based on last season or round-one performances.
Sharpening the Hawks' mentality, he says, will ensure they won't go under-prepared. "That's why we're focusing on ourselves."