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Doing it for Gramps

When Nick Kay takes the court for Saturday night’s road meeting with the Adelaide 36ers, he’ll take a moment to think of his biggest fan. As far back as he can remember, Illawarra’s uncompromising forward has instinctively followed the same routine, drawing inspiration from the man who has always been in his corner. “My Gramps has always been there,” Kay said. “He’s been to that many games. He came to America when I was there about eight times. He just loves getting out watching me play, so it’s those people that I look at as role models.” Hailing from Tamworth in country NSW, last season’s NBL Rookie of the Year comes from a tight-knit family and attributes much of his success to those closest to him. “Sporting or player wise, I didn’t have any idols when I was young, just more so family wise, so having my family always there coming to games is great,” Kay said. “I didn’t watch too much basketball as a young guy. Coming from the country it’s kind of all footy. But once I got into basketball I liked guys like Dirk Nowitzki.” Kay might not boast the offensive prowess of the greatest shooting seven-footer in history, but he has genuine three-point range and can’t be left unguarded on the perimeter. The 24-year-old has the strength to hold his own against almost anyone in the paint not named Nathan Jawai (no-one stops big Nate) and the foot speed to stay with point guards on defensive switches. Last week he had arguably his best game of the season with a team-high 15 points and five rebounds in Illawarra’s 82-73 home win over Melbourne United. “It was good to see some of the rewards come,” Kay said. “I’ve put a lot of work in off the court, coming back in after training to get extra shots up. It was good to see some of those go in and it was good to be able to contribute and help the team out. Melbourne’s a great team and to get that win was a big thing for us.” After losing five of their previous six games, the Hawks climbed off the bottom of the ladder with the round five defeat of Melbourne United, boosting their record to 3-5. For all the hype about Illawarra’s ability to rack up big scores and run opponents out of the gym, it was a renewed focus at the defensive end that laid the platform for last week’s triumph. “We had a rough start to the season, but last week we really got back to re-focusing on what we do and we had a good result on the weekend,” Kay said. “We just took a bit more time paying attention to the little details of our stuff. We went back to just looking at our whole system and what we need to do, pressure a bit more in the full court and contain and contest in the half court. “We did a better job of that against Melbourne and I think it’s going to be even more evident this week taking on a high powered team like Adelaide. Hopefully we can build on that and carry some momentum into this Adelaide game.” The 36ers (3-4) were thrashed by Illawarra in round one at Wollongong and the Hawks believe the Sixers will be eagerly anticipating the round six re-match. Adelaide pushed Perth to the limit last week before going to down by three in a high-scoring shootout. “The revenge factor is a big thing right there,” Kay said. “We had a big win against them last time and they’ve obviously got a lot to prove and they’ll come out firing. “We’re going to have to do a good job of stopping their transition because they’ve always been a great transition team, and in the half court they’ve got some guys that are really lighting it up. “[Jerome] Randle had 40 last week so if we can do a job on him and limit some of the other guys, hopefully we’ll be in there with a chance. They always play well at home so it’s going to be tough.” The Hawks rarely return from Adelaide with a win under their belt. Kay said his team can’t afford to let the Sixers get into an offensive groove in front of their home fans. “If they’re up and down the whole game it’s going to be their tempo, so we have to get stops to prevent that,” he said. “We go well when we can get stops and run ourselves. That’s when we’re at our best. To do that against Adelaide is going to be tough, but if we do it we’re going to have success. “We’re getting back on the right track and now it’s about building momentum. We had a good solid week of prep for Adelaide and now it’s about putting that into the game. “It’s crazy to think the season is nearly a third of the way through. The season’s flying by and we really need to jump on this and keep moving forward.”    
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