Stu Covell, a Hawks basketballer from 1989-1991, has died in Hawke's Bay.

Covell, a power forward under the tutelage of former mentor Curtis Wooten, died on Monday, January 22, after a short illness at the age of 57.

Wooten described him "as the ultimate teammate".

"Playing for the team came before anything else — playing time, ego or anything like that," he said of Covell who played in the Jamie Dixon era.

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Dixon, an American import, began his coaching career in 1989 at Te Aute College before going on to become the most sought after mentor in the American college landscape. He coaches the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs team.

"He [Covell] was just one of those good guys but he was also ultra competitive."

Wooten said Covell was a late bloomer in basketballer and didn't play the game at high school.

"He was six five [1.95m] and pretty competitive as well."

A back injury curtailed his playing career otherwise he would have played into his mid-30s.

Covell, he said, grew up in a farm in Gisborne but arrived in Hawke's Bay in his early 20s to work. He managed orchards.

"He was probably Mr Apple's most invested orchard manager," he said, revealing at his funeral at the Napier Conference Centre along Marine Parade, it was disclosed Covell was the company's most successful manager.

Wooten said he had only met him at a supermarket last November, going to play a game of tennis.

The pair shared a penchant for rock music entertainment in the province.

"He loved going to concerts around the Bay."

Wooten said he had received phone calls last month, notifying him that Covell was in a hospice here.

"Basically in late November he was having headaches so he went for X-rays in Wellington where they found a brain tumour which was inoperable so they did some cancer radiation."

The tumour became triple its size so Covell had made trips to Palmerston North for more treatments but to no avail.

"He was a great family person."

Covell is survived by wife Shelley, son and daughter, and two grandchildren.