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Illawarra Hawks v Adelaide 36ers Game Preview

Illawarra Hawks v Adelaide 36ers When: 7.30pm (AEST), Friday 7 October Where: WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong Broadcast: NBL TV; Fox Sports Captain Mitch setting the tone At the tender age of just 24, Mitch Creek has been elevated to the position of Adelaide 36ers’ captain, given the huge task of leading the NBL’s youngest team. But few 36ers’ fans who watched Creek leave his heart on the court every night last season would be surprised by his promotion. “It’s something new and different but it’s certainly a challenge in its own right. It’s a very prestigious and humbling accolade and something I don’t take lightly,” he said. “I’ve always tried to play as hard as I can as consistently as I can, I try not to ebb and flow too much. “We want to bring that hard-nosed mentality into the team this year, especially being a young, athletic, high-energy and high-impact team.” Word out of Adelaide is Creek reported to pre-season in the best shape of his career and has been setting the standard from day one. The other thing he’s been busy doing is recruiting teammates to share the leadership, with “the surprising one” to step up being Daniel Johnson. “He’s done a great job of leading. He’s been a lot more vocal,” Creek said. “If you know DJ at all you know he doesn’t really say peep, so for him to come out and be one of those guys who’s talking in huddles and rallying the troops to make sure the intensity’s there, it’s fantastic to have him by my side.” Giant challenge The 36ers’ first challenge is Illawarra at The Sandpit, where the Hawks were 12-3 last season, but Creek doesn’t mind the punters’ description of Adelaide being too young or too small, describing his team as “the underdogs for the whole season”. Creek is confident the perimeter ability of Eric Jacobsen, Majok Deng and Johnson will be a tricky match-up for Hawks giants AJ Ogilvy, Nick Kay and Michael Holyfield, who will be looking to dominate the paint.   “They're going to have their strengths as we’re going to have ours. They’ve got to guard Eric, they’ve got to guard Majok, they’ve got to guard myself when I play a little four, they’ve got to guard DJ. “We’ve got our work cut out inside. It’s going to be a hell of a job for both match-ups. One’s got strength and one’s got speed.” David turns Goliath After spending almost their entire NBL existence as the undersized underdogs, Illawarra will play the unusual role of Goliath in this game, but that’s a welcome change for coach Rob Beveridge. “We had the s__ beaten out of us at the end of last year, particularly AJ, teams got after him physically and wore him down,” he said. “And when you get Maric back and Jawai and all these bigs, that was a big thing for us, the physicality in the league, we’ve decided to fight fire with fire, so we’ve got some bigs.” Bevo didn’t want just any old bigs, however, targeting players who could provide muscle while still fitting into his high-intensity system. “I didn’t want to go out and recruit another AJ, so Holyfield’s fit in really well,” he said. “He’s still a young guy with a lot of work to do, learning the game, he’s just a puppy. He’s come in and he’s banging bodies, he won’t take a backward step.” The other unusual thing on Friday is Beveridge’s team won’t be the ones applying the most manic pressure, and trying to play at the greatest speed offensively. “They’ll probably play a lot higher-octane offence than what we will,” he said. “They're a lot smaller, a lot more athletic than what we are, they’ll press and press and press and they’ll attack the rim, so that’s our challenge.” While everyone knows Jerome Randle will lead the offensive charge, Beveridge liked what he saw defensively from the likes of Creek, Terrance Ferguson, Anthony Drmic, Nathan Sobey and Co at the Australian Basketball Challenge. “They play hard. When I was watching them against New Zealand the other day they pressed for probably 80 per cent of the game,” he said. “They were face-guarding the whole time, and they just kept bringing people in and out, it was pretty impressive. “The players have bought in, they know who they are and they know what they have to do. Yeah they're a little bit smaller than other teams, but they’ve got some jets out there.” Don’t expect the Hawks to suddenly become shrinking violets, however, given the core of last season’s number one scoring side has returned. With firepower like Rotnei Clarke, Rhys Martin, Tim Coenraad, Cody Ellis and Oscar Forman on the perimeter, and the slashing game of Marvelle Harris, Beveridge wants his team getting to the right spots and jacking up plenty of the right shots. “We know where we want our shots from, some people might think it’s crazy, but we know what we want to do,” he said. “We still want our 80 shots a game. We still want 100 points. We want cheeseburgers.”
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