From where Nick Fee takes his perch on the bench with the three-quarter shorts and singlet brigade, the bigger picture has never looked rosier in more than a decade for the Hawke's Bay franchise team in the National Basketball League.

For Fee, the minutes on the floor for the Taylor Corporation Hawks always gives way to the promise of a milestone second NBL crown in the history of a province that won its only crown in 2006.

"I honestly just love training with them as much as I can so that's the major reason I came to play for the Hawks," says the 25-year-old before Jarrod Kenny leads them out against the Nelson Giants in a round 10 match in Napier tonight.

The Zico Coronel-coached Hawks are sitting in second place on the NBL ladder, behind favourites Wellington Saints, before the 7.30pm tip off at the Pettigrew-Green Arena.

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"We're doing something special this season so the minutes is not something I'm too fazed about," says Fee, alluding to that bigger picture. "Honestly, we have got the chance to win the championship this season so that's something I'm just happy to be a part of whether it's Zico saying I've got 20 minutes in this game or you've just got to ride this game, which he obviously hasn't told me, but I'm happy with either result."

Fee is a point guard but with Tall Black Kenny calling the shots the game time was always going to be limited for someone who is into his second season with the Hawks after coming from his birthplace of Palmerston North to ply his trade.

"The major reason why I came to play for the Hawks is that there's an abundance of talent that you can learn so it's pretty tough just to keep that up," says the bloke who had represented the Manawatu Jets between 2012-15 with a break in between.

The scrimmaging sessions alongside pedigree national and international players here have incrementally help him build a template that will see him compete in a week-long tournament in China in August as part of Hoops Nation team selected in Tauranga last October.

The community development officer of Hawke Bay Basketball, the parent amateur body, will resign from his occupation on July 5 but will return from China to house sit for friends in Palmerston North before embarking on another chapter of his career. He doesn't know what that'll be just yet.

"I'm way more mature and smarter as a player so that's a credit to Zico as well as the other boys," he says.

Fee reiterates the Hawks are playing a brand of three-point, fast-paced game that New Zealand hasn't seen before and one that the Bay players are immensely enjoying.

It pleases him that despite a stacked Saints roster, NBL fans are buzzing about the Hawks' collective and individual prowess.

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"They're not too sure with even a team [Saints] like that [on who will win] so that's got to be good for us."

Nelson point guard Jordair Jett finds giant proposition put to him in the form of Hawks players Daniel Kickert (left) and Dion Prewster at Trafalgar Centre on May 16. Photo/Photosport
Nelson point guard Jordair Jett finds giant proposition put to him in the form of Hawks players Daniel Kickert (left) and Dion Prewster at Trafalgar Centre on May 16. Photo/Photosport

Having beaten the Giants on the road last month, Fee says the Giants have dangerous players who can "light it up any time".

The visitors have a mathematical hope of making the Final Four in Christchurch late next month but also need the Southland Sharks and the Southern Huskies, of Tasmania, to stumble along the way.

That sense of do-or-die desperation, coupled with the presence of veteran Tall Blacks skipper Mika Vukona on the bench, can be an ideal catalyst.

"They've got to be a better team coming in [tonight] than the one we played the last time," says Fee, mindful they had started slow against them — something the Hawks have done as of late in other matches — but it'll be an opportune time to rectify that from today.

It'll be a dress rehearsal of sorts because the Hawks will host the Saints on Saturday, June 22, after losing them in Wellington in the opening round. The Canterbury Rams are the only other side to beat the Hawks, also on the road.

Having rested centre Daniel Kickert for the best part of the season, Coronel has named the Australia import who has been nursing a back injury although the prudent will have taken note that there isn't a need to roll out the big artillery when you're playing the likes of the Jets, Taranaki Mountainairs and Supercity Rangers, without sounding disrespectful.

Giants forward Rhys Vague is among the top five MVP players in the NBL but so are American imports EJ Singler and Brandon Bowman and Ethan Rusbatch. With swingmen Rusbatch, coming off seven from downtown in the 106-79 victory over the Jets last Sunday, and Dion Prewster, likely to start as the sixth man if Kickert is in the starting five, humming Nelson will need their other players to switch on alongside Vague, too.

As the Hawks have hit their straps so have, exponentially, the PG Arena faithful, filling up almost 70 per cent of the seats on Sunday.

"Hawke's Bay have been playing great basketball all season and are very difficult to contain with great shooters across all positions," says Nelson coach Mike Fitchett. "We are looking forward to the challenge and hoping to come away with our first road win."

Fee says basketball is improving in the Bay at grassroots level, a testimony to the myriad "processes" in place to identify and groom talent.

"With all the basketball we've had we have a ridiculous number of what we call systems that get more kids involved," he says, disclosing there's also a high-performance programme set up from 15.

Hawks player Nick Fee signs autographs for young home fans at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, which is fast filling up with their success. Photo/Photosport
Hawks player Nick Fee signs autographs for young home fans at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, which is fast filling up with their success. Photo/Photosport

BOTH TEAMS

Hawks (starting 5): 6. Jarrod Kenny (c, point guard), 15. Brandon Bowman (power forward), 12. Ethan Rusbatch (swingman), 25. EJ Singler (small forward), 14. Daniel Kickert (centre).

Bench: 3. Nick Fee (point guard), 5. Everard Bartlett (shooting guard), 13. Dion Prewster (swingman), 7. Darryl Jones (forward), 11. Jamal Mikaio (forward), 9. James Levings (guard), 21. Geoff Heather (forward).

Coach: Zico Coronel.
Ast coaches: Morgan Maskell, Rob Hartley.
Manager: Jordan Wise.
Physiotherapist: Colin Tutchen.

Nelson Giants (starting 5): 2. Jordair Jett (point guard), 11. Daniel Grida (guard), 24. Tyrell Harrison (centre), 25. Rhys Vague (power forward), 10. Samuel Dempster (forward).

Bench: 6. Ali Granger (guard), 9. Tom Ingham (guard), 26. Bronson Beri (forward), 55. Kruz Perrott-Hunt (guard), 14. Mika Vukona (power forward).

Coach: Mike Fitchett.
Ast coach: Phill Jones.
Manager: Andrew Stevens.
Physiotherapist: Ashlee Lusty.

Tall Blacks skipper Mika Vukona will add some impetus to the Nelson Giants' drive to keep their flagging Final Four hopes alive in Napier tonight. Photo/Photosport
Tall Blacks skipper Mika Vukona will add some impetus to the Nelson Giants' drive to keep their flagging Final Four hopes alive in Napier tonight. Photo/Photosport