HAMISH BIDWELL
THIS is a make or break time for Everard Bartlett. Having carried the ``promising' tag for a few years now, these next few months will tell us if the 0800 Easy LPG Hawks really has a future as a professional basketball player.
Signed by the New Zealand Breakers as a development player, where his only notable achievement was winning the ANBL's slam dunk competition, the 22-year old is just back from his first real stint as a professional, with Icelandic club Hottur.
While it was an interesting experience, Bartlett isn't sure he's desperate to return. But if more attractive contracts are to appear on his horizon, then he'll need to produce dominant displays in matches like tomorrow night's one at Pettigrew-Green Arena against the Waikato Pistons.
``Playing over in Iceland brought a lot of different pressures. You don't have to score all the points but you definitely have to perform every night and that was a learning curve for me,' Bartlett said.
``The standard was much lower than in New Zealand and, to be honest, I was actually surprised they had a league over there. I think I did quite well over there and I did attract some interest from other teams.
``The biggest I wanted out of that trip was to try and get a European passport, so that I don't have to play as an import. Not having one makes it so much harder to compete with the American players for contracts and I've been told that if I play over there for two years, then I can apply for an Icelandic passport and play anywhere in Europe.
``If that was the case, then I might go back but it would have to be guaranteed. I wouldn't go back if I wasn't going to get a passport at the end.'
But if Bartlett's game is to ascend to the next level, then it's attracting the interest of clubs in the Australian league that may be the best way forward.
``I've always wanted to play in Australia and that's a definite option for me right now,' he said.
``The money is good in European basketball and if I could do well in Australia, then that could be a stepping stone to a good contract over there.'
Admittedly slightly banged up after his time in Iceland, Bartlett still looked like a guy who'd been playing in an inferior league in his first match back with the Hawks a week ago.
If he and the Hawks can kick on from that performance against the Wellington Saints and threaten, or beat, Waikato, then we may have a genuine NBL contender on our hands.