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Back to Basics

Four straight losses has sent the Illawarra Hawks searching for answers, but forward Cody Ellis has his own theory on his team’s dramatic form slump. The Hawks were firing on all cylinders a month ago, capturing the Australian Basketball Challenge and pummelling Adelaide by 34 in the season-opener. Since then they have gone down to Sydney twice, Melbourne United and titleholders Perth, prompting coach Rob Beveridge to describe Illawarra’s early form as ‘fool’s gold’. The Hawks face another testing week, hosting the injury-depleted Wildcats on Friday night before playing their fourth game in nine days with Sunday night’s home clash with Cairns. Ellis believes his side needs to get back to basics. “I feel like we’re kind of missing that fire we had last year, that desire to work our butts off,” he said. “Probably one of the worst things that could’ve happened was winning that preseason tournament, because it might’ve got into everyone’s heads that we’re pretty good, whereas last year everyone counted us out going into the season. “It’s just a matter of getting everyone to buy into Bevo’s system, having each other’s backs and playing like we care about each other. “Defensively we’re a step slow on everything and it certainly shows in the games when we watch it on video. “It’s there in spurts but we lose concentration for three or four minutes and there’s the game. It happened against Sydney in the third quarter and it was the same against Melbourne. “It’s certainly frustrating but it’s definitely all fixable. It’s just little things we have to tweak and if we get that stuff right we’ll take off and be tough to beat.” Ellis is averaging 13.8 minutes per night and got his first start of the season last Monday against Sydney after coming off the bench in the first four games. With averages of 4.4 points on 29 percent shooting, 1.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists, the 26-year-old knows he is capable of having a far more positive impact on Illawarra’s performances. Especially after averaging 25 points and eight rebounds for the Stirling Senators in the WA State League during the NBL offseason. “I played a lot of the three-spot in the offseason and tried to work on my perimeter game, and just work on guarding some of those quicker guys,” he said. “All those little things you try to develop in your game and they help to keep you around as long as you can.” The Hawks won’t get a better opportunity to beat the Wildcats than Friday’s duel. Perth will be without point guards Damian Martin and Jarrod Kenny through injury, while import Andre Ingram requested and was granted a release by the club earlier this week after just two games. Cats coach Trevor Gleeson has turned to development player Corban Wroe to handle his team’s playmaking duties. “We’re fortunate enough to have Corban ready to step up,” Gleeson said. “It’s a great chance for him to take on increased responsibility. I’ll also be looking for the rest of the guys to show leadership.” Ellis is confident the Hawks will quickly turn their form around and start climbing up the ladder. “We went into Perth and didn’t play very well and we only lost by seven in the end, so this is certainly a good chance to get a win over them,” he said. “If we get our defence rolling that’s how we score all our points. We’re a run and gun team and that’s why we beat Adelaide in the first game. We got stops and ran and shot the ball and played our style of game, and if we do that we can beat anyone. “Bevo is preaching mental toughness right now. It’s a great opportunity for us to step up and show we want to contend for the title. We’ve certainly got the talent for it, and being committed and having each other’s backs is huge.” Beveridge called on star imports Rotnei Clarke and Marvelle Harris to ignite the Hawks. “That’s why you’ve got imports,” Beveridge said. “You have an expectation that when things aren’t working you have to turn to your imports and you have an expectation that they step up. “I’m extremely critical of myself and I set high standards for myself that I’m accountable to, and I expect the same from the players.” Centre AJ Ogilvy’s strong words after Monday’s 17-point road loss to Sydney should also light a fire under the Hawks. “We went soft in the third quarter and retreated back into a shell instead of standing up like men,” Ogilvy said. “It didn’t look like we had the desire. Last year we had guys that gave their heart and soul every single game. Last year we were proud to put on the Illawarra Hawks uniform. This year I don’t feel the same about our team.” Illawarra are expected to have point guard Mitch Norton back in the lineup this weekend after he missed three games with a hamstring injury.    
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