Naming a starting five or appointing a captain isn't high on the agenda of rookie head coach Zico Coronel as the Hawks prepare to begin their National Basketball League campaign next week.

"We have a deep team and we have a number of calibre players who are starters so that is a good position to be in," says Coronel.

The Taylor Corporation-sponsored Hawke's Bay franchise host last season's runners-up, SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks, in the 7pm tip off at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, to signal the start of the Sal's-sponsored NBL season on Thursday.

Nothing is concrete as the mentor, who has had a stellar 13 seasons as NBL assistant coach, takes in variables that will dictate how the Hawks will approach different oppositions who will bring myriad styles of play.


"The little tactics that we may wish to employ may sometimes call for different starting line-ups. I'm not too concerned about who starts," says the 34-year-old former Wellington school teacher now based in Napier as a fulltime coach.

"People make a deal of a starting five in basketball but probably the most significant thing that tells you who the coach believes are the main people aren't who starts but those who close [matches]."

That "reversing of minutes" to nut out who should remain on the court as the shot clock runs down can change the nature of a game.

Coronel says assuming the mantle of captaincy in basketball isn't as demanding as in rugby or cricket because the coach is heavily involved in making decisions.

"In basketball, what is important is to have leaders. The more you have the better. On who will actually be captain isn't something we'll give a huge amount of thought to because we have so many good leaders that it'll be about someone who has to do the speeches ..."

He feels they have done well in recruiting in the off season, adding players with Tall Blacks' experience to the players retained from last season.

Despite David Barlow flying the coop within four days of arriving in Napier from Melbourne, he believes the presence of Gold Coast Commonwealth gold medal winner and Perth Wildcats big man Angus Brandt will add impetus to any other import they entice in the next few days.

"David Barlow's a significant loss. In the short time he's been with us he's proved to be everything that we hoped he would be and more.


"He's a good human being and a very good basketballer and he's capable of doing a lot more than we've seen him do in his role with Melbourne United so I think he would have been outstanding," says Coronel who sees the loss as more work for him and the management to replace him with another big.

He says Barlow could have been a template but the Hawks also are very adaptable.

Jarrod Kenny (left), Mitchell Newton, Dion Prewster and Kareem Johnson will be among the Hawks' movers and shakers this NBL season. Photo/file
Jarrod Kenny (left), Mitchell Newton, Dion Prewster and Kareem Johnson will be among the Hawks' movers and shakers this NBL season. Photo/file

The inclusion of young, promising players in the mould of Mitchell Newton (NZ Breakers development) and Hyrum Harris (Super City Rangers) offers options.

"Hyrum Harris and Mitch Newton have done a very, very good job and Angus Brandt is a high quality player and we're happy with the way Kareem Johnson has been going in the pre-season so, basically, they'll have to stand up in the absence of Barlow until we know what the solution is."

Aspiring players Harris and Newton recognised what barlow was going to bring to the table and were looking forward to gleaning knowledge off him during training.

"So it is a little bittersweet. They are disappointed that he is not with us ... but they'll be happy because they are players who want an opportunity and you want those type of players who are hungry and excited."

A crop of home-grown players as well as equivalent talent from outside the province (Auckland and Hamilton) lend credence to the franchise's reputation of possessing a template and culture that will pave a pathway for progress.

Coronel emphasises there was never any intention to be partial towards imports from Australia or any other country but simply to be mindful of known quantities.

"Whether that's an import who has played in our league before so you know what you're getting or whether it's players from the ANBL in Australia because there's so much cross-over between the two leagues that you can make so many comparisons as to how good someone can be."

That sense of familiarity is perhaps best reflected in the cohesiveness that Brandt may have developed with one-season Hawk swingman Dion Prewster during the Sydney Kings campaign and with Tall Blacks point guard Jarrod Kenny with the Wildcats.

"They [Prewster and Kenny] were able to speak for his character so what in the guessing game was whether he would a good person became a known thing for us."

Kenny was expected to arrive this weekend while Brandt was to follow later next week because of Gold Coast commitments.

"It's a great thing for them, their lives and their careers and also a good sign for us that they are high calibre players so it's a good trade off."

Coronel juxtaposes that with higher calibre players who tend to ply their trade overseas and, consequently, are "less available" because of international commitments that overlap with the NBL here.

He sees the three-day preamble to the NBL, the eight-team Blitz which tipped off in Palmerston North last night, as an opportune time to see how the Hawks' "system" is working against the other franchises.

"For all basketball teams, when you play each other, you kind of get a false sense of security by the nature of you're playing against yourself."

He is mindful that no one really cares who wins the Blitz so it becomes an ideal test tube in a laboratory to carry out experiments.

"It's a great chance to give some players a chance to show they are ready because with real games you cannot really use them as finals as there's more to lose."

Coronel says chucking players on the floor in the Blitz for 10 minutes means coaches glean relevant data on them without worrying about the outcome.

Making the Final Four playoffs in early August is part of the agenda but he says if the team ticks the boxes along the way that will take care of itself.

While there may be a tendency to lose one's way in setting the bar at different heights, Coronel says the ultimate goal is whether a team can play the game at a standard that has never been played in the country before.

He understands there's a height of expectancy in the Bay community where players are seen as role models.

"They are good basketballers who will play in a way that people will enjoy. Basketball in itself is a very enjoyable experience because if there is a storm you don't have to worry because you'll be inside a warm stadium enjoying the atmosphere and high scoring."

Hawke's Bay once was the best crowd in the league. In a couple of years, inconsistency kicked in, he says, but now there's another opportunity to get back to the winning ways the Hawks have been used to in the past 15 years.

Hawks squad: Jarrod Kenny, Angus Brandt (import), Everard Bartlett, Dion Prewster, Ethan Rusbatch, Hyrum Harris, Mitchell Newton, Kareem Johnson, Nick Fee, Dominic McGovan, Kaleb Edwards, Nikau Joyce, Ravi Mani, Reuben Fitzgerald, Jaxson MacFarlane, Peter Wilkie.

Head coach: Zico Coronel
Assistant coaches: Morgan Maskell, Kaine Hokianga
Managers: Nigel Prior, Keirran Stafford, Jordan Wise

Doctor: Andy Edwards
Physiotherapist: Colin Tutchin
Trainer: Amy Percy, strength and conditioning