With the table-topping Wellington Saints unveiling Tom Abercrombie this week it's easy for other Final Four contenders to lose focus on what's happening below them on the table.

It seems that isn't the case with the Taylor Corporation Hawks who face last-placed Manawatu Jets in Napier in a 3pm tip off to be televised live on a Sky pop-up channel tomorrow.

Despite having a day off yesterday, several players turned up unexpectedly for one-on-one sessions with coach Zico Coronel at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, to put in the extra work for their National Basketball League campaign.

"They are, arguably, one of the best last-placed teams in the league," says Coronel of Manawatu who have only beaten defending champions Southland Sharks leading into round nine this week.


The Tim McTamney-coached visitors, who could be rooted on the last rung of the NBL ladder if they stumble to fellow strugglers Taranaki Mountainairs in Palmerston North tonight, lost by two points to the Saints and by eight points to the Canterbury Rams in the previous round.

The tenacity of the Jets isn't lost on Coronel when he echoes the sentiments and the disappointment of McTamney in losing consecutive games to the Southern Huskies, of Tasmania, and the Rams, after leading them going into the dying minutes.

"Three of their four games against the likely playoff teams went right down to the wire so we're the only one of the likely playoffs teams they didn't come close to," he reveals.

He believes part of that reasoning is that the Jarrod Kenny-captained Hawks show the Jets the respect and put in the preparation because that's what the hosts ordinarily do.

"It's not like we're going to play the Saints so that's all the amount of work we're going to put in this week ... we just do the same thing for every opponent so, I think, that's part of why we've had that sort of success against them."

Guard Daishon Knight, as he did last season, still has the propensity to make difficult shots for Manawatu so if he does Coronel says there's not much anyone can do about it.

Small forward Kuran Iverson's versatility and his display against the Rams showed he's making incremental gains in his efficiency. Throw in young power forward Wally Ellenson's athleticism and his ability to find some love with the rims and the Jets start humming.

Coronel says it didn't help that McTamney's roster kept changing to rob them of full strength.


"If their schedules were reversed they probably would of had more wins with Daishon," he says, suspecting the jets have a good chance tonight of winning their second match.

Coronel says Hawks centre Daniel Kickert is training but isn't keen to say he'll play tomorrow.

Hawks import centre Daniel Kickert muscles up against Manawatu Jets at the Central Energy Trust Arena in Palmerston North last month but will he play tomorrow? Photo/Photosport
Hawks import centre Daniel Kickert muscles up against Manawatu Jets at the Central Energy Trust Arena in Palmerston North last month but will he play tomorrow? Photo/Photosport


HAWKS (starting 5): 6. Jarrod Kenny (point guard), 15. Brandon Bowman (power forward), 12. Ethan Rusbatch (swingman), 25. EJ Singler (small forward), 14. Daniel Kickert (centre).

Bench: 3. Nick Fee (guard), 5. Everard Bartlett (guard), 13. Dion Prewster (guard), 7. Darryl Jones (forward), 11. Jamal Mikaio (forward), 9. James Levings (guard), 21. Geoff Heather (forward).

Coach: Zico Coronel.
Ast coaches: Morgan Maskell, Rob Hartley.
Manager: Jordan Wise.
Physiotherapist: Colin Tutchen.

MANAWATU JETS (starting 5): 10. Jackson Stubbins (guard), 40. Daishon Knight (guard), 3. Wally Ellenson (power forward), 31. Kuran Iverson (small forward), 50. Shane Temara (centre).

Bench: 5. Taane Samuel (forward), 15. Troy Temara (forward/centre), 30. Adam Carter (guard), 4. Haize Walker (guard), 7. Tia-Toa Temata-Frost (guard), 42. Jack Henry (guard), 14. Stephen Hansen (forward).

Coach: Tim McTamney.
Ast coaches: Terry Tanoa, Josh Reeves.
Manager: Jason Pearn.