Ethan Rusbatch will preen his feathers with the Hawks this season in a bid to help the Hawke's Bay franchise team win a second crown in the New Zealand Basketball League.

Rusbatch, last season's co-skipper with the Canterbury Rams, will add to the shooting artillery of the Taylor Corporation Hawks on the foundation of a physical and uncompromising presence in the driving lanes where coaches like to see him enter early.

A cog in the wheel for collectiveness, he considers himself "a glue guy" who can slot in for cohesiveness in a team no matter how variable the backgrounds of individuals in a squad.

However, the swingman stresses leaving the Rams' enclosure wasn't a spur-of-the-moment move but one he gave a lot of thought to.


"It wasn't an easy decision at all," says the 25-year-old from Christchurch after Hawks co-skipper Jarrod Kenny approached him to discuss details before Rusbatch reflected on them to switch allegiances from his birthplace although he leaves with the blessing of the Canterbury team.

"It was tough for me but I'm looking forward to coming back to play with them again."

What tilted it in the Hawks' direction was the platform of opportunities under the tutelage of new coach Zico Coronel to flourish.

"I wanted a fresh start with some new coaching to look at it in a different way," says the 2016 Tall Blacks shooting guard/small forward who believes he has benefited immensely under Rams coach and former international Mark Dickel.

He respects Coronel's nous as a long-time career assistant coach on the cusp of making the big calls at the helm of the Hawke's Bay franchise team when the season tips off in April.

Rusbatch chuckles at the thought of visiting the Pettigrew-Green Arena in Napier where the Rams have had their share of skirmishes with the Hawks.

He says he is looking at having the vociferous support behind him rather than deflecting the heckles.

The basketballer has made 72 NBL appearances, averaging 12.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists last winter, but his intention is to embark on a journey that will help him make the transition to the higher echelons of basketball with a lot more stability and consistency.

The former New Zealand Under-18 captain, who stands at 1.96m, has won national crowns in 2009 and 2011 in age-group teams for Canterbury.

Rusbatch recognises the proud history of the Hawks, whose past few seasons have hit turbulence, that has yielded only one NBL crown, under Australian mentor Shawn Dennis in 2006.

The ex-Cashmere High School student was a development player with the New Zealand Breakers during the 2016-17 Australian NBL but the franchise didn't retain him after he reached the age threshold last year.

He began his career in 2012 with the Southland Sharks after a year studying and playing for Lincoln Trail College in the United States in 2010-11. He spent a year with the Taranaki Mountainairs before settling with the Canterbury Rams from 2014.

Rusbatch made an extended 23-man Tall Blacks squad for their Fiba World Cup qualifier against South Korea in Wellington last November but missed out on the trip away overseas with New Zealand coach Paul Henare.

Born in Christchurch, he was initially raised in the country town of Twizel where there wasn't much in the shape of basketball but his passion for the game intensified when his family moved to Wellington. There he honed his skills alongside the likes of former Hawks and Tall Blacks shooting guard Dion Prewster and Brooke Ruscoe after absorbing the culture shock of living in the capital city.

"I've always had a good relationship with Dion," he says, recalling they were teammates when Rusbatch started with the Sharks in 2012.

School programmes were the norm and camps beckoned, helping mould a relatively green template that was ready to be exposed to more challenges when he returned to the Garden City as a 10-year-old.

He has a proud heritage in basketball with mother Sharon Rusbatch, of Christchurch, but the biggest influence was an uncle, Kenny Perkins, an American and a 1980s Rams player whose son Kendrick is an NBA professional centre in the US.

"He's played for the Rams and won titles."

His father, Palmer Rusbatch, living in Porirua, is a Cook Islander so the tribal tattoos he sports go back to his Pacific Island roots.

Rusbatch stays with his Rams basketballer brother Bede Marsters in Christchurch, and is living the dream.