Whether Jarrod Kenny will assume the mantle of captaincy again is the prerogative of new coach Daniel Nelson but the Tall Blacks point guard is returning to roost with the Hawks this year.
"It doesn't matter what team he is with he gives it a 100 [per cent]," says the Hawke's Bay franchise chairman Keith Price of Kenny who is from Auckland but has plied his trade in the National Basketball League (NBL) for 18 years with the Taylor Corporation-sponsored Hawks in all bar one season.
"Jarrod never has a day off and his bad days are good days."
Price says the decision on who'll skipper the team rests with Nelson, of Dublin, Ireland, who arrives in Napier on Wednesday but that didn't detract from Kenny's leadership skills.
"He also lends to a great culture and is great for the team spirit," he says. "He is the natural leader of the team with Ethan Rusbatch."
The 34-year-old point guard is representing the Cairns Taipans who are sitting third on the Australian National Basketball League (ANBL). Rusbatch is in his rookie season with the New Zealand Breakers who are languishing in eighth in the nine-team ANBL competition.
Before his stint began with the Taipans in 2018, Kenny had won back-to-back ANBL crowns (2016-17) with the currently second-placed Perth Wildcats over three seasons.
"He's a home-boy and he might live here one day, if he likes it," says Price, labelling the 1.88m player with 69 Tall Blacks caps as one of the "really, really nice guys" of the NZ NBL.
"You know, he rolls up his sleeves — if you want him to carry bags he'll jump up [to do that] so he's always part of the set up."
The former Westlake Boys' College pupil had averaged 4.8 points and 2.6 assists across the Fiba World Cup Asia qualifiers for the Tall Blacks. He and Rob Loe were the only two players to appear in all 12 qualifying games.
Talented HB trio aiming to boost CVs at national camp
After making his debut with the New Zealand men in 2011, Kenny went on to help them clinch bronze medals at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. He has been a regular in the international arena although injury put paid to his campaign in 2016.
Kenny, who played the 2014-15 season in Germany with Licher Basket Baeren, represented his country at the most elite level at the 2014 Fiba World Championship in Spain and the World Cup in China last year.
He made his debut with the now defunct Harbour Heat in the NZ NBL in 2002 when still at high school. Last year Kenny claimed the Dave Taylor Award for the most assists, averaging 6.5 a game.
Price says the communication the franchise has had with Nelson has been very good.
"He has been involved with the recruiting so it's his team," says the Napier City councillor.
"He's a really good guy to talk to and my wife [Amy] is the general manager this year so it's all under one roof."
The 35-year-old, who was mentoring in Russia before jetting home for Christmas holidays, was appointed Hawks coach in November from a pool of eight candidates who were whittled down to three, including the only Kiwi in the running.
Nelson was previously a carpenter in Dublin but put his saw and spirit level away to channel his energy into basketball 17 years ago.
His last gig was with Parma Basket Perm in the VTB United League, the elite professional tier of the men's competition in Russia.
He was assistant coach of the Parma 1 side but head coach of Parma 2 in the 2018-19 season.
His other coaching stints include spells in the German Bundesliga and NBBL at the helm of the MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg and Porsche BBA sides.
He's whipped out clipboards for huddles along the benches of the Pro B team, Giants Nördlingen, in Germany.
He has coached in the United Kingdom BBL with Leeds Force as well as the ANBL and Women's SBL with the Perth Wildcats and the Cockburn Cougars, respectively.
Nelson has performed myriad roles including head coach, assistant coach, development manager, coach educator and video scout. His multiple coaching licences are a testimony to that.
He has also been involved in international basketball, as a video scout with the Australian men for pre-season training camps in Perth, friendly games against China and for pre-season preparation games in Croatia, Lithuania and Slovenia. He has served as assistant coach with Irish national teams.
In Australia and Ireland, Nelson has volunteered his time with state teams and national talent-identification programmes. Establishing junior development and player pathways are close to his heart.
He has spent the past four Northern Hemisphere summers testing the athletic abilities and physical measurements of the top 50 American and top 50 International NBA Draft prospects in Italy and the United States.
"He's got a lot of contacts for imports so he talks to a lot of players and is here to run the ship, which is good," Price says, revealing more signings will be released with the franchise inviting fans on their social media sites to guess who they will be in the coming weeks.
The Hawks have won only one NBL crown — under Australian Shawn Dennis in 2006.
They lost to the Wellington Saints in the grand final last year under Zico Coronel who, after two seasons as head coach following more than a decade of NBL stints as an assistant, is now with the Breakers.
Before Coronel, former Tall Blacks coach Tab Baldwin, in the final year of his two-season contract, also had taken the Hawks to the grand final but stumbled.
The NBL has implemented a $200,000 player salary ceiling for the coming season. It will feature eight teams, with the Franklin Bulls as the newcomers under the "Competitive Balance System".
The Hawks open their campaign against the Saints on Thursday, April 9, in a 7.30pm tip off at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale.
The NBL will culminate with the Final Four from July 17-19 before the grand final from July 24-26.