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More than meets the Jawai

It’s a scary thought, but there is more to Perth Wildcats centre Nathan Jawai than meets the eye. He’s an imposing physical specimen – all 209cm and 143kg of him – and his rim-rattling dunks and ferocious blocked shots can be a little frightening at times. But what often takes people by surprise, especially new team-mates, are Jawai’s incredible passing skills. Big Nate’s ability to pass out of the low block is unrivalled among NBL centres. There are other bigs – like Sydney’s Tom Garlepp and Cairns’ Mark Worthington – who are excellent passers but none possess Jawai’s devastating combination of commanding a double-team and ability to find the open man. According to Wildcats captain Damian Martin, it’s a skillset that has taken the Perth players a little while to get used to. “When Nate first came in we thought he was just going to be this dominant force on the block and that we’d just throw it in and he’d try to get to the basket,” Martin said. “But we soon realised that if you throw it in, and you’re open, he’ll find you regardless of where you are on the court.” That’s precisely what Jawai has been doing this season for the 4-2 Wildcats. Against Illawarra in Round 3, Jawai punished the Hawks for double-teaming his post catches by finding open shooters on the weak-side. He threw three assists in the opening quarter and, despite playing only 16 minutes on the floor, finished with five dimes for the ball game. His passing played a key role in helping sharp-shooter Jermaine Beal (25 points) find his stroke early in the game. Of course, what else are you going to do? Unless your name’s Majok Majok, single coverage is probably not going to work against Jawai. His size and strength – as well as his impressive fleet of foot – is simply too much for one man to handle. MVP candidate A.J. Ogilvy found that out the hard way on Saturday night at Perth Arena…[ooyala code="p1Z3ZqeDoW1pn7ZtZWzCRKPxRRQw0Uqn" player_id="d5b993422b3e4b5ebd61f9e19ca2a6a5" width="1280" height="720" auto="true"] “They’re playing me single coverage so if I can be aggressive and then get them to double team me, I’m going to pass the ball to our open shooters,” Jawai told Fox Sports analyst Brad Robbins at half time. That’s exactly what he did when Illawarra started sending extra bodies at his post catches, setting up Beal and Jarrod Kenny for wide open looks at the basket. [ooyala code="V2cnZqeDoPk0AfYQPcM9Qo7kmxpHX36l" player_id="d5b993422b3e4b5ebd61f9e19ca2a6a5" width="1280" height="720" auto="true"] Australian Boomers assistant coach Luc Longley, himself a skilled post passer during a celebrated 11-year NBA career, has been working closely with Jawai over the past couple of years. The three-time NBA champion spoke of Jawai’s increased patience and maturity as an important element of his growth as a player. “He’s got such good control and composure in the post now,” Longley said. “We’ve worked with him a bit on taking his time and he’s become really good at waiting and letting the play unfold before he makes his decisions.” Martin believes Jawai’s passing skills are so good that it’s time to start comparing him to the finest dimers in the NBL. “We didn’t expect him to be as talented a passer as he is but he’s shown that he’s one of the best passers in the league, let alone best big man passers,” Martin said. “Between his vision, his huge hands, his patience and his unselfishness, he really is an outstanding passer of the ball.” It may not be the most obvious aspect of his game, but after the opening month of the 2015/16 NBL season, the (wild) cat is officially out of the bag when it comes to Nathan Jawai’s ability to pass the rock.
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