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WTF: Hawks close to an X-Man signing

WHO'S TURNED FREE (AGENT): ILLAWARRA Hawks look set to sign an X-Man in Xavier Cooks while guys on contracts continue to be released and signed elsewhere in this week’s NBL wrap up.

Four-time NBL championship centre with NZ Breakers and Tall Blacks international Alex Pledger today formally joined defending champion Melbourne United after being released with a year left on his contract.

United championship power forward Tai Wesley and his back-up Majok Majok both already are Breakers, the club clearly heading in a different direction under new coach Kevin Braswell, with Rob Loe also gone and now with Mike Kelly’s Cairns Taipans refit. But you knew that ...

WE TOLD YOU: On May 6 (above) we told you Tai Wesley would be back at Breakers.

Kyle Adnam also joined Sydney Kings this week, as WA media magnate Lachy Reid first reported, another player still contracted for 2018-19 by Melbourne but released by mutual agreement.

Adnam and Majok both flourished under previous coach Dean Demopoulos, but Melbourne didn’t. New coach Dean Vickerman, already a championship winner at NZ Breakers, preferred Peter Hooley to Adnam and Tohi Smith-Milner to Majok, winning a long-overdue championship in the process.

It made sense for the trio to part ways, Adnam most likely better suited to the Taipans’ environment – he will be behind Jerome Randle, Kevin Lisch and Tom Wilson in Sydney - but Cairns already had locked up Perth championship backup Jarrod Kenny.

* * *

PLEDGER, 31 and 215cm, averaged 6.1 points and 5.1 rebounds in 15 minutes a game in 2017-18 and reunites with Vickerman at Melbourne.

The arrival of Andrew Bogut on the NBL scene as Sydney’s starting centre, means bona fide “bigs” will have more cache in 2018-19 because no-one is going to want to see the likes of Bogues, Nate Jawai, Cam Bairstow, Matt Hodgson, AJ Ogilvy, Angus Brandt, Tom Jervis and Co in regular foul trouble, as per the past.

NBL officials will have to adjust to big-man post-up play on the block, a substantial difference from penalising them for being big.

“Everybody has a really true centre on their team in the league this year and he’s a true 7-footer,” Vickerman said of Pledger.

“He’s a high level defender, has a solid post game and certainly creates a presence on the offensive boards as well.

“He’s been around this game long enough now that he certainly adds a lot of championship experience to this group as well.”

Pledger joins Chris Goulding, Hooley, Smith-Milner, David Barlow, Craig Moller and Daniel Trist as contracted players at United.

* * *

THE X-Man is ready to start cooking at Illawarra, according to “sauces” Hollandaise and Tomato.

Xavier Cooks, son of Hawks assistant coach Eric who was a SEABL giant - winning MVP awards and championships before embarking on his NBL career - is a 203cm swingman born in his dad’s former stomping ground at Ballarat.

Playing at Winthrop University, Cooks, 22, this year as a senior was named the Big South Conference Player of the Year. He concluded his college career as Winthrop′s all-time leading rebounder.

ONE OF THE X-MEN: Xavier Cooks gets cooking for Winthrop. He soars like a hawk.

A member of the Emerging Boomers last year, Cooks has no shortage of options but while he is a longshot to be drafted by an NBA club, Europe also beckons.

The continued positive evolution of the NBL now, however, makes it a very viable option and with Illawarra retooling, he will be a perfect fit in Rob Beveridge’s program.

Illawarra already has retained Ogilvy and Tim Coenraad, while adding star guard Emmett Naar and former Crocodiles-United-Kings forward Todd Blanchfield.

Blanchfield’s former Townsville teammate Brian Conklin, the NBL’s MVP in 2015 who was cut by the Crocs after 13 games of the 2016 NBL season, also is being linked to Illawarra.

The hard-as-nails power forward, 28 and 198cm, most recently has been playing in France, unfortunately better remembered here for heavy clashes with Perth’s Damian Martin and Adelaide’s Mitch Creek, the latter incident leading to his suspension.

* * *

STEPHEN Holt today was touted for an NBL return with Brisbane Bullets by respected and reliable Courier Mail writer Greg Davis.

Holt would round out the backcourt which already boasts Cam Gliddon, Jason Cadee and Adam Gibson, giving the Bullets another point guard option.

Played out of position last season, Holt struggled to reproduce the form he showed as an import for Melbourne United, which included winning the Ray Borner Medal.

Brisbane is in the hunt “for another Torrey Craig-type” import, according to coach Andrej Lemanis, to fill the three spot.

As tipped here long ago, Bullets centre Tom Jervis officially signed back with his home club Perth Wildcats, joining a formidable big-man rotation with Commonwealth Games' Boomers' Gold Medallists Nick Kay, Angus Brandt and Jesse Wagstaff.

* * *

ADELAIDE 36ers have secured the club’s third chief executive officer in 10 months with experienced sports administrator Ben Kavenagh taking over the role from Asa Cowell.

Former Adelaide Crows and Carlton Football Club chief executive officer, Steven Trigg, has taken on the role of chairing the club’s new advisory board for owner Grant Kelley.

The board includes the owner and managing director of Michels Warren, Phil Martin; managing partner of Moore Stephens, Grant Miles; CEO of Statewide Super, Richard Nunn; Triple-Olympian, dual-WNBL MVP and Adelaide Lightning legend, Rachael Sporn; and managing director of Heitman, John White.

Kavenagh brings 20 years’ experience in sports administration to his 36ers role, working in basketball, football, cricket and golf.

He previously was CEO of Geelong Supercats and South Adelaide Football Club and currently is GM of Glenelg Golf Club.

* * *

SIX degrees of separation?

Sydney Kings have signed Deng Deng, 26 and 203cm, who came to Australia from South Sudan as a nine-year-old.

The power forward spent two seasons at Lee College in Texas before transferring to Baylor University’s NCAA Division 1 program in 2015. He also has played two seasons in the NBA G-League with the Texas Legends and had pro stints in Finland and Lebanon.

So now the NBL boasts Majok Majok, Majok Deng and Deng Deng. Good luck Steve Carfino.

* * *

THE University of Hawaii’s men’s basketball team will tour Australia’s eastern seaboard from August 8-18.

We'll publish the tour schedule when it becomes available.

* * *

GOT A GIG YET? Anthony Drmic to Shaun Bruce. Or maybe they’re reminiscing how their Vic Under-20 state team came back from the dead to beat SA in the national final at Gawler a few years earlier.

* * *

SYDNEY Opera House is providing the spectacular backdrop for the FIBA 3x3 World Challenger event underway today and tomorrow in Sin City.

Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal again is the site, with this weekend’s event featuring 10 international and six Australian teams, five of the world’s top eight teams competing.

Qualifying and pool games run until 8.30 tonight, finals from 5-9pm tomorrow.


May 18

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