The last say, in keeping with custom, goes to the American-based professional basketballer Joshua Fox on whether he wishes to add anything to wrap up the interview.

"My lime green shoes," says the Taylor Corporation-sponsored Hawks player with a grin. "Most people look at it and say why do you choose to wear such a bright colour."

His girlfriend, Courtney Hessler, 21, in San Francisco suffers from Lyme disease which causes a rash, often in a bull's-eye pattern, and flu-like symptoms that can trigger joint pain and weakness in the limbs.

"Few people know about and it often gets misdiagnosed for arthritis and stuff like that so I'm trying to educate more people as it's one of the highest rising diseases," says the 23-year-old Fiji-born in Napier on his debut season in the National Basketball League.


Fox opts to close with: "Love you, mum."

However, the Hawks power forward, who stands at 1.98m but prefers the role of small forward, knows the job in the NBL court always comes first, as they host Mike Pero Giants at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, in a 7pm tip off today.

While their first win, under former Olympian and Tall Fern coach Kirstin Daly-Taylor, over the Giants will be a catalyst, Fox emphasises the visitors also have had a changing of guards in their ranks.

Last month, on the platform of five defeats on the trot, Nelson fired Alan McAughtry, of Australia, and, on the same day, signed up American import power forward Morgan Grim who stands at 2.02m.

Every time this season the Hawks have posted a victory the Giants have emulated that feat and last week was no exception when Nelson picked up their third win to push the hosts back to the bottom of the NBL ladder.

"Their season has turned a little bit for the better but, in saying that, we're not overlooking them because we know we can beat them so we just have to go in to execute," he says, seeing the humorous side to the see-sawing from the two teams to avoid the wooden spoon.

The 24-match losing streak up to March was weighing heavily on the Jarrod Kenny-captained Hawks' shoulders but since then they have turned the page on winters of despair.

"I mean we were beating ourselves up on the losses, which were on us as a team, because we had some mental lapses and we just fell apart so we needed to pick up the intensity.

"There was nowhere to look at but at ourselves so we needed to pick it up and now we're changing that negative outlook of, 'Ah, we can't afford to lose another one' to 'We'll win'," he says.

Fox is enjoying his baptism into the NBL, realising defending champions and unbeaten leaders Wellington Saints are the yardstick of success.

"You know what to look forward to in the higher leagues and what I really need to work on.

"It's kind of opened my eyes and given me a reality check so I've been enjoying it so far and it's been really good."

Fox agrees it isn't easy coming to play for a team who are behind the eight ball but believes the Hawks are starting to slot a few more pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.

"A lot of these teams have been together ... so, basically, we're just a bunch of guys brought together," he says, mindful other teams have combinations who are set in stone over several seasons.

But he refrains from fishing for excuses although he's quietly confident the Hawks will make the Final Four when push comes to shove at the business end.

He believes they have cleared the turbulent phase, with the resignation of Daly-Taylor a fortnight ago marking a crescendo of frustrations as former Hawk and international Ben Hill assumed the mantle of caretaker coach.

"Ben's been great and he's very hard on us but realistic with some of the issues," says Fox.

"He's kind of come in and given us an extra kick in the butt because, you know, when you make a run. He's been very good and I have no complaints about him."

He relishes Hill's "straight-up" honesty, a philosophy his assistants, Clifton Bush II and Kaine Hokianga, also embrace.

Ask what has changed after the Hawks won their second match of the season and first up under Hill against James Blond Supercity Waitakere Rangers two Fridays ago in Te Awamutu, Fox replies: "Ben's been able to pull from experience playing in the league."

The three coaches' familiarity with Rangers coach Jeff Green's approach was crucial. "He gives us a little bit of confidence having played in the league and knows what sort of stuff we need to work on to pick up a win."

Fox graduated from the UC Davis University in California, where his 21-year-old girlfriend is studying, last June with a degree in organisational studies (business).

He lives in San Francisco with mother Elizabeth Fox and brother Conrad, a 25-year-old former Fiji international and ex-Marine who he intends to start a business venture with in helping recruit players from Fiji through a scholarship system to the US.

He misses his extended family in Suva, where he was born, so he makes the most of things when he visits them every so often.

His parents (father Daniel Manueli) emigrated when he was 4, in search of a better quality of life.

"It kind of sounds cliched but there were more opportunities so we went there, with better schools and all, so we could have a better future than they did."

His mother is cock-a-hoop about his athleticism but her preoccupation was with her sons excelling in scholastic circles.

"Priority right now is basketball, as much as I can. The goal is to go to America to play as much as I can there at the top leagues, wherever that may be."

However, Fox will have his business initiatives simmering on the backburner in case injury and other such variables break his stride in the code.

"I'm just using it to open other doors."

While his Fijian heritage tugged on his emotional strings to play rugby, the pond for the code in the States was too small.

"It's being taken a little more seriously now as a sport for the US so it was kind of depressing for me in that way but I picked up a basketball which I love."

For Fox, the yes-you-can moment came while watching the Sacramento Kings trying to hustle in the formidable era of the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals.

"It was the very first game that my brother and I ever watched [Robert] Horry hit a three to basically beat the Kings - lucky shot but great play - so we just got excited.

"Just about everyone went crazy. We didn't even know who we were rooting for but we went crazy. The next week we rolled up to the local YMCA and started playing basketball."

It wasn't until he was 18 that he felt he could eke out a career in the game because his single mother's energy was entrenched in academic pursuits.

His high school coach affirmed he could do something special with his talent so Fox started buckling down to treating it as a prospective job.

"It opened up doors for me to obtain scholarships," he says, reflecting on his mother's militant stance on education and appreciating what she did for him.

Some PG Arena faithful have caught in Fox glimpses of Fiji-born Tall Blacks captain Mika Vukona, who is a master in upping the physicality stakes with subtlety.

"The first time here a couple of guys kind of brought it up so I just kind of laughed because, I guess, it is the Fijian playing style.

"It's kind of nice to see I remind some people of a guy who is as great as he is so I just take it as a huge compliment."

Fox has struck a rapport with the Bay franchise as a whole and is soaking up the compliments showered on him and the support.

He is shimmying and faking for loftier goals because he suspects he's capable of doing it.

"Not to speak bad of the league or anything but I am looking at a higher level. The league's been teaching me a lot to play against those higher level players in the last few weeks," he says but also can see himself coming back to the Hawks.