2023/24 NBL Team Wrap – Illawarra Hawks

THE 2023/24 National Basketball League (NBL) season was one of the most entertaining in recent memory, with all teams performing at a high level and making a genuine run at some postseason action along the way.

All 10 teams were in the hunt for a spot in the finals and play-in until the penultimate round, demonstrating the impressive quality of the competition.

Given the season has concluded, Rookie Me Central will be dissecting each team’s campaign, and the key pieces that shaped it.

On the agenda today are the Illawarra Hawks, who were the fairytale side of the season, and were so close to making the big dance in remarkable fashion.

Illawarra Hawks

2023/24 record – 14 wins, 14 losses
Ladder position – 4th
Postseason Result – Eliminated in game three of the semi-finals

How it happened

One of the most decorated stories of the season was how the Hawks were able to turn their campaign around and make a late charge for the title. Nine games into the fixture, Illawarra was sitting on the bottom of the ladder with a record of two wins and seven losses, and it looked like more of the same from last season. However, a coaching change sparked a serious resurgence within the team, as the Hawks looked almost unrecognisable from their early season form from that point in. The team made it through the play-in to book a spot against the ladder-leading Melbourne United, and forced game three after a masterful comeback at home in the second clash. Although they lost in the deciding clash, it was still an excellent campaign given the hole they found themselves in early on.

MVP – Gary Clark

An easy choice for Illawarra’s best performer, Clark enjoyed a terrific debut season in the NBL, finding his feet as the season rolled on and becoming one of the best players in the league by fixture’s end. The import thrived under his new coach in the back half of the season, and announced himself as a genuine three-level scorer that can hurt the defence in several ways. In the 2023/24 season, Clark averaged 17 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.3 assists while shooting 46 per cent from the field.

The coach – Jacob Jackomas/Justin Tatum

It was mixed results on the coaching front for the Hawks, but they got it right eventually. After a disappointing campaign at the helm last season, Jackomas found the going tough once again, and departed the team after a poor record from their first nine games. He was replaced by assistant coach Tatum, who breathed new life into the team, and had them playing at a high-scoring, high-tempo pace for the remainder of the fixture. The players bought into his leadership and he helped Illawarra make the semi-final.

Where to?

The Hawks will not need to change too much from their current roster, as demonstrated by their performance in the back half of the season. Clark seems eager to stick around, which is a massive positive given how important he was to the team, while Sam Froling continues to develop as a star of the future and William Hickey was a revelation in the semi-finals. The big question mark surrounds Tyler Harvey‘s status, given he enters free agency. Although the Hawks will be eager to keep him, the star guard will likely demand plenty of attention from opposition teams.

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