The Taylor Hawks have been given a big boost ahead of the weekend's opening match in the 2021 national basketball league with the return of two-metre tall forward Hyrum Harris from Australia.
While the NBL started last weekend, the Hawks, having bypassed the short 2020 season, don't make their entrance this year until a 3pm tip-off at Pettigrew.Green Arena, Taradale, on Sunday against the Canterbury Rams.
Sunday's match will be the first of three in a row at home for the Hawks, with the Southland Sharks and Nelson Giants both at the PGA before the Hawks hit the road for a series of away matches starting with Taranaki Mountainairs on May 20.
Harris, 24, returned on Wednesday from Australia where he had served a short stint as a nominated injury replacement in the Australian NBL with Cairns Taipans, the home also of fellow Hawks Jarrod Kenny and Jordan Hunt.
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From Rotorua and named in a Tall Blacks squad last year, Harris already had American college basketball scholarship experience before he came to the Hawks first time around in 2018.
He's had five seasons in the New Zealand NBL, with appearances also for the Super City Rangers, Southland Sharks and the Manawatu Jets, and the 2019-20 Australian NBL season as a development player in 16 games with the Illawarra Hawks, shooting a team-high 61 per cent from the field.
Hawks general manager Amy Price said the franchise is excited to have Harris back, having worked on his return to the Napier-based club since he left.
The club had supported him in his short stint with the Taipans, knowing the ambition of New Zealand players to get into the ANBL as part of their career pathway.
The Hawks will go into Sunday's game near full strength, but with three still on ANBL duty – Kenny and Hunt, both with the Taipans, all-but out of ANBL finals contention, and Jordan Hunter, with currently third-placed Sydney Kings.
Taylor Hawks programme 2021:
May 2, Canterbury Rams (home); May 8, Southland Sharks (home); May 16, Nelson Giants (home); May 20, Taranaki Mountainairs (away); May 21, Auckland Huskies (away); May 29, Nelson Giants (away); May 30, Canterbury Rams (away); June 4, Franklin Bulls (away); June 6, Auckland Huskies (home); June 12, Otago Nuggets (home); June 18, Wellington Saints (home); June 20, Manawatu Jets (away); June 26, Franklin Bulls (home); June 27, Wellington Saints (away); July 3, Otago Nuggets (away); July 4, Southland Sharks (away); July 10, Taranaki Mountainairs (home); July 15, Manawatu Jets (home).
The semifinals and final are on July 22-23.