Blink and there's probably a good chance you're going to miss Everard Bartlett on the basketball court this winter.

To be fair, the Taylor Corporation Hawks are only just beginning to play more games on the trot in Napier but, even then, the Pettigrew-Green Arena faithful must be forgiven for wondering where Bartlett has been.

The 32-year-old Hastings-born shooting guard started off the Sal's Pizza-sponsored National Basketball League on the bench after a few niggly injuries held him to ransom.

But last Saturday, the former Tall Black made a cameo appearance, which yielded three shots from downtown to leave the sparse arena crowd squealing with delight, as he helped unravel a threatening 2 Cheap Cars Supercity Rangers to the NBL heap.

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Oh, yes - the bloke who recently returned from the Fiba 3 x 3 World Cup campaign for his country in Manila, Philippines, has still got that ability to pull the trigger.

To be honest, his relatively slight frame and cordial demeanour must barely have opponents working themselves into a sweat when he rolls on but chuck that greasy grenade into his hot little hands and the chances are he'll wipe the smirks off their faces like an assassin from the rooftop.

However, Bartlett remains philosophical when asked if his role allows him to employ his strength to the fullest this season for captain Jarrod Kenny.

"There's four of us who are pretty much Tall Blacks guards ... so it's all about rotation," he says before the Zico Coronel-coached Hawks host the Augusta Taranaki Mountanairs in a 5pm tip off today.

Point guard Kenny and swingmen Ethan Rusbatch and Dion Prewster are the other three internationals.

Having exorcised his injury demons, he feels much better to help the collective make that playoff push for the Final Four in early August.

Like any basketballer, he yearns for more game time but appreciates he has to fit into the template Coronel and assistants Morgan Maskell and Kaine Hokianga are trying to mould in the senior mentor's rookie head coach season.

He'll be the first to admit that having found traction with the rim, it can be quite frustrating to return to the cold comfort of the bench after a hot streak.

"Again, it's just the coach's call, so you've just got to respect him and his decision to do what he says."

Bartlett has started a business, EB Sports Development, which offers clinics to school children to enjoy basketball in preparation for future involvement at elite levels.

He has represented his province since 2006 bar a season each away with SIT Zerofees Southland Sharks, the Rangers and a club in Ballarat, Victoria, in Australia.

Bartlett isn't going as far as saying he's in a "happy place" with his individual game but he is determined to work his way back to a level where he starts enjoying himself again.

Hawks veteran guard Everard Bartlett is back after overcoming niggling injuries. Photo/Photosport
Hawks veteran guard Everard Bartlett is back after overcoming niggling injuries. Photo/Photosport

The Hawks have already enjoyed success over the Airs on the road, winning 90-87 in week two, and will have a jig in their step after ending a two-game losing streak last weekend to claw their way back into the purple patch with six wins and four losses.

Alonzo Burton, whose family and friends still live in the Bay, is captaining the visitors so the Airs will have some presence. The former St John's College (Hastings) pupil, who was part of Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare's greater squad in Wellington last week, will want to lift their two-win record as playoff hopes start fading.

Bartlett says Taranaki can be dangerous because they have a propensity to rock up and upset anyone on their day.

"If you disrespect any team, they can make you pay."

He is mindful Burton, a former Hawk and son of Willie Burton, who helped the Hawks win their only NBL crown in 2006, will today be hoping for a big game.

"He's had a call-up to the Tall Blacks, so he'll be confident, too."

Alonzo Burton was in the New Zealand 3 x 3 team with Bartlett last year and has helped him with his talent-building business.

In many respects, Burton has a similar build and demeanour to Bartlett but the latter says the Airs shooting guard is maturing in his roles quite well and Taranaki have recognised that in naming him their leader.

Airs forward Javonte Douglas, who has scored a season-high 30 points against the hosts, is leading the rebounding department (11.3 a game) but it'll be interesting to see how he fares against the Hawks' Aussie import, centre Angus Brandt, who claimed another double-double last Saturday.