YOU KNOW the widely held view of nice guys in sport - yep, they finish last.
A mighty fine bloke Alonzo Burton sure is but he intends to drop that nice-guy persona in a heartbeat the moment he enters the courts of contention in the Bartercard National Basketball League (NBL) this season.
"I'm an athlete. I want to win," says the IMS Payroll Hawks guard before the Liam Flynn-coached side host the Breakers Manawatu Jets in Napier tonight.
Burton, who has returned to roost with the Hawks after a stint last year with the Jets for more game time when Tab Baldwin was at the helm here, is adamant one does not have to mutate into an ugly character to assert oneself at the height of competition.
"I'm not talking trash and getting under people's skins and all that," says the 22-year-old son of former NBL title-winning stalwart Willie Burton, of Napier.
For the younger Burton growing in stature to emulate his father will be a godsend but for now he believes all he needs to do is work hard on the different aspects of his game and build more strength.
"My body and metabolism won't happen overnight," he says, stressing his father had a latent growth spurt around 22-23.
Flynn singled out Burton, among others, in last Sunday's 97-90 victory over Augusta Taranaki Airs, but the plaudits came in the unfamiliar territory of defence, not his untapped clutch-shooting prowess even though he scored 12 points.
"He played solid defence in the second half and has great work ethics," Flynn reiterates, adding he also can shoot instinctively from anywhere although he has had a slow start to the season.
"I trust he can play in big moments but he needs continuity and defence, and at the other end be an offensive, attacking player."
Burton, who has carried on the tradition of wearing his dad's No14 shirt, agrees big-game shots are not dropping "but I can play the game, I make a living off it".
He is keen to play the Jets who have lately had the wood on the Hawks in slippery banana situations, winning the last three out of four face-off encounters.
Burton, who had some "big work on" with the NZ Breakers academy last season, relished his time in Palmerston North.
It was an ideal opportunity for him to grow as an individual who got out of his comfort zone in Napier although he does stay with his parents and pays board while working for clothing retailer Cotton On.
"I have mum's family there so it was different ... and a lot colder," he says with a laugh, after picking up an injury halfway through the season.
The hosts won their first game on the road last weekend but have lost to the table-topping Nelson Giants and defending champions Wellington Saints at home.
Both sides have been below-par in finding love from the rim from outside the arc - the Hawks are 28 per cent and the Jets are the league's worst at 25 per cent.
However, the Hawks' guards have come out to play recently to add value to their two imports American Zack Atkinson and Nigerian Suleiman Braimoh.
Last season's forward of the year, Braimoh, claimed his first player-of-the-week title last round with 21 points (6/9 field goals, 8/11 free-throw line) and 14 rebounds.
Atkinson, who is the NBL rebounding leader (11.8 a game), has claimed three double-doubles and should have a good dust up with Nick Horvath tonight.
Flynn says the last-placed Jets are a better outfit then their winless record suggests, suspecting they have signed up a "big Kiwi kid" from a US college.
Rd 4 statistics in the NBL:
Home teams first:
Wellington Saints 94 (Torrey Craig 38, Dion Prewster 16, Lindsay Tait 13) James Blond Supercity Rangers 102 (Tom Garlepp 30, Jason Cadee 26, Reuben Te Rangi 13).
Mike Pero Nelson Giants 92 (McKenzie Moore 33, Phill Jones 14, Deronn Scott 14) Canterbury Rams 83 (Ethan Rusbatch 15, Kyle Coston 13, Mickell Gladness 12).
Breakers Manawatu Jets 74 (Brandon Jenkins 19, Jeremiah Trueman 14, Brook Ruscoe 12) Canterbury Rams 81 (Ethan Rusbatch 27, Kyle Coston 18, Mickell Gladness 13).
Augusta Airs 90 (Aaron Fuller 28, Brad Anderson 20, Aaron Bailey-Nowell 14) IMS Payroll Hawks 97 (Suleiman Braimoh 21, Marco Alexander 18, Zack Atkinson 12).
Zerofees Sharks 89 (Kevin Braswell 24, Todd Blanchfield 21, Shea Ili 15) Canterbury Rams 83 (Richie Edwards 27, Ethan Rusbatch 12, Kyle Coston 12).
Points, 38: Torrey Craig (Saints) v Rangers.
Rebounds, 18: Todd Blanchfield (Sharks) v Rams
Assists, 12: Lindsay Tait (Saints) v Rangers.
Steals, 4: Marques Whippy (Rams) v Giants
Blocks, 4: Zack Atkinson (Hawks) v Airs.
Players of the week:
1 Torrey Craig (Saints) v Rangers 40pts.
2= Suleiman Braimoh (Hawks) v Airs 38.
2= McKenzie Moore (Giants) v Rams 38.
4 Ethan Rusbatch (Rams) v Jets 35.
5 Todd Blanchfield (Sharks) v Rams 34.
6 Tom Garlepp (Rangers) v Saints 31.
7 Brandon Jenkins (Jets) v Rams 29.
8 Lindsay Tait (Saints) v Rangers 28.
9= Zack Atkinson (Hawks) v Airs 27.
9= Jason Cadee (Rangers) v Saints 27.
NB: Italics denote losing team player.
Rd 5 games
Homes teams first:
Last night: Airs 80 Giants 109.
Last night: Sharks 84 Rangers 69.
Tonight, 7: Hawks v Jets at PG Arena.
Tonight, 7: Saints v Giants.
Tonight, 7: Rams v Rangers.
P W L H A F Ag Pts
Saints 7 6 1 2-1 4-0 12 687 610
Giants 5 5 0 3-0 2-0 10 448 407
Rams 7 4 3 3-0 1-3 8 624 641
Rangers 5 3 2 1-1 2-1 6 491 477
Hawks 4 2 2 1-2 1-0 4 316 327
Sharks 5 2 3 2-1 0-2 4 464 445
Airs 5 0 5 0-2 0-3 0 458 495
Jets 6 0 6 0-3 0-3 0 488 574