It's bad enough running on to the basketball court to shimmy and fake - but try assuming the mantle of coach at the same time.

That's what Marco Alexander is trying to come to grips with in his debut season with the IMS Payroll Hawks.

A shooting guard in a fledgling three-year career, coach Tab Baldwin is trying to mould the 22-year-old into a point guard - the little general on the floor.

"I've always been a shooting guard so it's my first year as point guard," Alexander says before the Hawks tip off at 7pm against Waitakere Rangers in round four of the Bartercard National Basketball League (NBL) tomorrow at Pettigrew-Green Arena, Napier.


Instinctively a scoring guard, he has had to temper his reflexes to fulfil the role of a vociferous playmaker.

Alexander was in Melbourne over the summer, where girlfriend Teagan is pursuing tertiary qualifications, when he struck a rapport with Baldwin.

At the cusp of accepting a contract in the Seable national league, he found traction with the multi-NBL title-winning coach.

The former Tall Black mentor impressed on him there was a dearth of point guards and a need for players of his 1.85m, 80kg size and skills to step up.

Alexander spied a niche, mindful he possesses other attributes such as speed, vision and leadership, before packing his bags for Hawke's Bay.

"Tab's a very good coach and he's had successes ... and there's a lot of talent in the Hawks and they are exciting so we could go all the way."

The Skopje-born son of Macedonian parents, Victor and Stefi, of Auckland, puts his evolution to point-guard status down to the collective.

US imports Dustin Scott and home-boy Kareem Johnson as well as first-choice little general Jarrod Kenny, captain Paora Winitana and Everard Bartlett have made his job easier.

He'll be the first to confess his stint in the opening-round loss to Wellington Saints on the road didn't stack up.

"I'm making adjustments with every game progressively so there's a lot more to come yet."

It scarcely matters to him how many minutes he gets on the floor. What matters is the Hawks winning.

Ditto that he has led a nomadic existence in the NBL jungle - Waikato Pistons (2011), Harbour Heat (2012), back to Pistons and now the Hawks.

"I can prove I can play in the NBL and have good minutes."

Aware the Bay franchise have only one NBL title to their credit, courtesy of coach Shawn Dennis in 2006, he believes they have the credentials to add another crown this year.

"If you look at our team there are no super stars.

"We're all role players who trust each other, the coach ... so we've been together long enough and we're tight," he says.

Alexander lauds the Hawks as the most professional outfit he's played for. The franchise's rapport with the community and its school programme are pivotal to that sense of belonging.

A joker in the pack, Alexander is quick to step up during scrimmages to lighten the mood when situations become tense.

His sporting genes definitely come from his mother, a former handball player although his father was a social basketballer in Macedonia.

His parents left for New Zealand during the 2001 war in the former Yugoslavia with Marco and younger brother Borjan, now 19, arriving two years later.

Alexander, a former Rangitoto College pupil, played soccer, volleyball, water polo and athletics as well but his parents told him to choose one - basketball won.

"I wasn't very good at basketball but I took it as a challenge," says the man who idolised former NBA Sacramento Kings small forward Peja Stojakovic who was born a Croat but also has Greek nationality.

His age-group national representative selections were ideal reinforcement that he'd made a wise decision.

The Auckland-based Rangers have yet to register a win but the Aik Ho and Dillon Boucher-coached side have some pedigree players in Australian import Daryl Corletto (NZ Breakers), American import Eric Devendorf, of Syracuse University fame, and captain Houston O'Riley in the guards.

Throw in Breakers Development player Duane Bailey and home-grown Patrich Bolstad and it's a case of God help any team should the last-placed side find a modicum of cohesiveness this season.

Boucher also is part of the playing roster but Baldwin understands his foot surgery has left him in limbo for an unspecified time.

Just as they did against Taranaki here on Saturday, the Hawks aren't taking any chances against a side who won only one game on the road last season and also beat the Hawks at home.

"If we expect to be a playoff team then we have to find the pressure for home games and not slip up," Baldwin warns.

He stresses the hosts can't afford defensive lapses in the first half, as they did in the 88-80 victory over the Mountain Airs.

On the flip side, Baldwin was pleased with his bench, especially the input from centre Shaquille Hohipa-Wilson and forward Matt Wilson.

The third-placed Hawks host Manawatu Jets at the PG Arena on Easter Monday.