It wasn't easy for Waikato Pistons player Puke Lenden to play in Hawke's Bay at the turn of the century.
But these days the former 0800 Easy LPG Hawks forward walks on to Pettigrew-Green Arena with consummate ease.
He's comfortable his mother, Lesley Lenden, of Whakatu, is behind the Pistons but he can't say the same about his hordes of friends and relatives.
The self-confessed Mooloo man tells SportToday before tonight's National Basketball tip-off at 7 in Napier: "I like to go back home and, hopefully, we'll win."
Having received texts and phone calls this week from the Bay about how the Hawks will kick Waikato butts, the 29-year-old says victory for the defending champions will make the after-match drinks and conversation with his mates and family a little easier.
Mindful that the Hawks lost away to Manawatu Jets last Friday night, the 1.95m forward says if anything that result will fire up the hosts.
Although the new-look Hawks have a composite look about them, the former Napier Boys' High School student is familiar with the individuals. "They're bringing a different style to Hawke's Bay. They are more up tempo and will try to run our big boys off the court but we'll bring our own little way to stop that."
Lenden has been with the Pistons since he left the Bay seven years ago and is also an employee with a marine plastics manufacturer in Hamilton.
Considering himself a swingman, he like to think he tries to "do it all" coming off the bench.
Waikato head coach Dean Vickerman says the inspirational Pero Cameron is a fair way from being completely fit and is sporadically coming off the bench.
"The Hawks are an up tempo side so we'll have to be good in our defensive transitions and make it more of a half-court game," says Vickerman who feels his troops are a little undercooked on the road with just two games up their sleeves. Needless to say he'll be "extremely happy" to claim maximum points tonight.
"The Harbour Heat snuck one in (won) and so did Wellington and we'll try to do that too."