For Amir Williams, becoming the centre of everything that makes the Hoopla Kingdom revolve on its axis is an occupational hazard.

That weight of expectation from coaches, teammates and spectators is something Williams has always shouldered from the time he was a lad who dwarfed his classmates in the United States.

"The centre brings a lot of attention to the game of basketball everywhere, no matter where you are," says the latest Taylor Hawks import, not long after arriving in Napier on Wednesday for his maiden stint in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NBL).

"You do a lot of things for the team - points, rebounding, blocking shots, defending, whatever. We are the centre of focus because we're the biggest people on the court," says the 24-year-old from Detroit, Michigan.


The Hawke's Bay franchise team are hosting last-placed, winless Mike Pero Nelson Giants in a 3pm tip-off at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, tomorrow.

The Jarrod Kenny and Everard Bartlett co-skippered Hawks are flying through a turbulent phase in the NBL, dating back to 2015 in a bid to break a hoodoo of 24 winless matches.

Williams is used to people physically and metaphorically looking up to him from the time he started playing basketball as an 8-year-old at Detroit Country Day School.

"I've always been tall all my life. Middle school, high school. People look up to me in the court as a voice," he says.

The 2.11m tall player, who weighs 113kg, believes his dossier is about juggling the variables he can control without adding unwanted pressure of what other people's expectations may be.

"I know the way I play so you find you can't control some things that are uncontrollable during the game and you can't dwell on it too much. You just have to perform."

Williams says living up to one's own expectations as a player will take care of everything else.

He is coming here late after plying his trade with the Iowa Energy team in the NBA D League, which began in December.


So how did Williams fare there?

"Not too good. We had a coaching change and we had a lot of injuries to the team so we didn't finish the season too well but, I think, they'll be a better team although I don't think I'll go back to them next season," he says, revealing he needs to sit down with his agent, Jamie Knox, of Atlanta, Georgia, to see if playing overseas is an option.

Williams, who loves the Bay, has had a few scrimmages with Hawks coach Kirstin Daly-Taylor and the troops.

"It looks like a great team, great culture and great coach so, I guess, I just can't wait to get to work with these guys."

The Ohio State University graduate hasn't been able to do much research on the national league here but he suspects it's an interesting competition.

"What I know right now is that it's a great place to be."


Williams is prepared to be as physical as he needs to be for his team to claim victories.

"I go out there to play my hardest to do whatever I can to help the team win."

So what does he bring to the Daly-Taylor matrix?

"Whatever the team needs me to do. I'm a great defender. I can score at the low post. I can rebound the ball. I'm vocal with my teammates, trying to help them out as well to see what they can do to help better themselves."

Having experienced his share of lows with Iowa Energy, Williams says he'll do the best he can to help turn the Hawks' fortunes around.

"It'll have to be a team effort. It's not just going to be relying on me to win games. Everybody has to rebound, defend and score."


After a snappy videotape session he suspects the Hawks are only a few tweaks away from winning games.

"I hear we lost a couple of games by one or two points so those are the minor things we'll have to fix. We're there. We just have to put a few pieces together."

Neither his parents, Erma Williams or Keith Jacks, nor siblings Nikita, 28, or Kahlil, 18, have played the game but his dad pointed him in the direction of basketball when he showed interest.

"When he asked me I just ran with it, really," says Williams who was high school state champion in 2010, made the top-30 McDonald's All American national senior high school cut and helped his college side to a Big Ten title and final four.