EMMETT Naar may be the favourite to win the NBL’s Rookie of the Year award, and he has the advantage of having his first season under the tutelage of an MVP.
Cedric Jackson’s return to the NBL — joining Rob Beveridge’s Illawarra Hawks — is as much a coup for the team’s head coach and fanbase, as it is for the budding Naar, who’s one of the country’s most promising young point guards.
Naar, 24, has been fortunate to pick the brain of Jackson, as the Sydney-native enters the first season of his professional career.
“He’s a former MVP, led the league in assists. He just knows how to play,” Naar told foxsports.com.au.
“In terms of getting used to the pace of the game, he’s obviously a really quick guard, but he knows how to change pace, play slow when he needs to, and keep calm.
“Nothing really speeds him up or bothers him. I might be a bit frantic when I get out there, trying to play 100 percent, but just to calm down, let the game come to me; I’ve learned lots.”
We saw that level of poise and control during Naar’s time at Saint Mary’s, where he ended up as the school’s all-time assist leader; a title formerly held by Matthew Dellavedova.
During his four years in Moraga, Naar was dishing to a big-man like Jock Landale. Now in Illawarra, his target is yet another one-time NBL MVP in Brian Conklin, as well as AJ Ogilvy, widely regarded as one of the most talented big-men in the league. While the 6’1 point guard will be coming off the bench, Beveridge has given him a level of freedom that rookies don’t usually get.
“I think using a lot of on-balls as the majority of our offence,” Naar said, when asked about the similarities between the college game and his time with the Hawks, thus far.
“(They key) is just me crashing the paint, and moving the ball.”
Naar will be the Hawks’ primary ball carrier off the bench, and he’ll have an interesting cast of teammates to feed, from Todd Blanchfield looking to emerge as a star, to a content David Andersen, and Ogilvy, one of the best centres in the country.
That group will show us the latest instalment of ‘Bevo Ball’, with Naar set to be given a much-desired sense of freedom on the offensive end.
“We play a pretty high-paced offence. I think Bevo wants me to play a bit free,” Naar said.
“Obviously with Cedric, I’ll have a lot to learn from him. We’ll be playing a bit together, I think. There’ll be times where it’s just me at the one by myself. Bevo wants me to organise the team, get people involved, things like that.”
The Hawks’ first game of the NBL regular season is on Friday, October 12, against Melbourne United, the defending champions.
Olgun Uluc covers basketball for Fox Sports Australia. Twitter: @OlgunUluc