You could say the Hawks have got their meat and veges on the gala dinner table but are still waiting on the arrival of import-quality champagne and caviar before their season tips off next week.

Taylor Corporation-sponsored Hawke's Bay franchise team basketball coach Zico Coronel says Hawks have confirmed their "non-restricted players" for the Sal's National Basketball League (NBL) season, with the imports' signing likely to be made public before round one.

"We don't want to make any announcements until we've firmed up on all the other aspects rather than announce it and then have a hiccup and have to back track," says Coronel, before embarking on his second winter as head coach with the Hawks after a stellar assistant coaching career with title-winning franchises, such as the Wellington Saints and the defunct Waikato Pistons.

Two-time Perth Wildcats ANBL crown-winning point guard Jarrod Kenny is back at the helm to form the nucleus of the Hawks with European league-quality swingman Dion Prewster and fellow Tall Black Ethan Rusbatch.

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"It's very pleasing to retain three Tall Blacks and that's not a given if you have players of that calibre in a World Cup year," he says, mindful Tall Blacks head coach and former Hawks stalwart Paul Henare, now living in Central Hawke's Bay, is at the helm of the Cigna Wellington Saints which is a big drawcard for aspiring internationals to want to be under his tutelage.

That the Hawks trio had bought into the culture here also as a platform to enhance their Tall Blacks careers spoke volumes of the Bay franchise and where it was headed.

The other players confirmed are Nicholas Fee, veteran small forward Darryl Jones, James Levings, Mitchell Dance, Dominic McGovan and former Tall Black and ANBL shooting guard Everard Bartlett.

The Hawks will hit the highway to the capital city first up to play beaten finalists Saints in a 7pm start at the TSB Bank Arena on Friday next week before hosting the 2 Cheap Cars Supercity Rangers at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, the following day at the same time.

They will then host the new kids on the nine-team NBL block, the Southern Huskies, from Tasmania, Australia, on Sunday, April 21, in a 3pm tip-off.

Hawks veteran Everard Bartlett (left) is back but Australian import centre Angus Brandt is embarking on securing a career in the European leagues. Photo/Photosport
Hawks veteran Everard Bartlett (left) is back but Australian import centre Angus Brandt is embarking on securing a career in the European leagues. Photo/Photosport

Australian import centre Angus Brandt isn't returning to the Hawks' fold and neither is American power forward Jamie Skeen.

Coronel says Boomer Brandt was always a one-year proposition because he and Kenny had harboured the desire to play alongside each other in the NZNBL so with the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in the frame last year it had been realised.

"He's now looking for bigger and better things going forward," he says of Brandt, who has been granted his release from the Wildcats to put his feelers out in Europe this winter.

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Skeen is still playing in a successful season in Finland and the franchise wishes him all the best in his endeavours.

Coronel says with the Fiba World Cup this year, the challenge of signing imports is something numerous franchises will encounter.

"We would love to have them all here but that also means we'll have to pay them with the money set at a premium," he explains. By reducing managing their time here the franchise is able to spread their salaries across, thus making it a more lucrative offer.

The majority of the basketball world, he reckons, are talking about how much a players is paid a month generally so the more months you have them here means the returns may lose their sheen.

The Hawks, he says, have played warm-up games although some players, apart from the imports, weren't able to play because they couldn't travel or were sick but that had simply opened the door for other squad members to showcase their prowess."

They have included Napier Boys' High player Clifton Bush III in their training, the most notable schoolboy after his national age-group call up in February.

"He's been coming to training and doing well," he says of Bush III, a year 12 pupil.

The others in the squad are Jamal Mikaio, Kobe Kara, Geoff Heather, Jacob Nahora and YuQing Jiang.

Coronel says Dance has been a star in New Zealand with back-to-back MVP awards at the NZ Secondary Schools Championship and leading scorer for the national age-group side at the Fiba Under-17 World Championship in Argentina last year.

The former Rosmini College player from North Harbour has been nursing a niggle but had started training late this week.

That gave NBHS pupils Jiang and Kara the opportunity to show their worth in the pre-season games which was exciting for the NBL in future.

"Clifton, in fact, started in both games and they all played significant minutes and against people who outweighed by some margin and, obviously, a lot older so they did exceptionally well."

Coronel says the Hawks won both their games against rivals who were much closer to fielding their full squads.

Exchange pupil Jiang impresses the coach with his dedication and commitment as an NBHS stalwart who trains 45 minutes after training is over.

"The only player who probably puts in more volume of work than him is Dion Prewster but YuQing is a Chinese citizen and they don't allow dual citizenship," he says, revealing the year 12 high schooler won't make his starting XII because of eligibility issues.

Coronel says what underpinned the Hawks' NBL crown-winning season in 2006 was the province's ability to produce calibre players, some of who went to become Tall Blacks in Henare and Paora Winitana as well as Arthur Trousdell, Aidan Daly and a then young Bartlett who also represented his country.

Point guard Jarrod Kenny is among the marquee players returning to help the Hawks form the nucleus of their NBL campaign tipping off next week. Photo/Photosport
Point guard Jarrod Kenny is among the marquee players returning to help the Hawks form the nucleus of their NBL campaign tipping off next week. Photo/Photosport