The Illawarra Hawks weren't able to make it past the semi-finals despite adding more fire power to their roster. (Image: @illawarrahawks - Twitter; Design: Will Cuckson)

The Illawarra Hawks were primed and ready to improve their semi-finals appearance last season but suffered the same fate despite adding more firepower to their roster.

The Illawarra Hawks were primed and ready to improve their semi-finals appearance last season but suffered the same fate despite adding more firepower to their roster.


Final ladder position: Second (19 wins, nine losses)

Heading into NBL22, Illawarra looked set to better its semi-finals appearance, adding Boomers Bronze medalist Duop Reath, and imports Antonius Cleveland, and Xavier Rathan-Mayes to its already stacked roster.

Early signs in the season proved that the Hawks will be one of the teams contending at the end of the season. There were stages throughout the year where they looked like they were struggling but Brian Goorjian was able to direct his troops, and fix the issue swiftly with the Hawks rarely losing consecutive games.

In the back half of the season, with the pressure of potentially missing out on a top-four spot, Illawarra went on a massive six-game winning streak to propel itself into the finals and be one of the in-form teams.

The Hawks finished the season second on the ladder before another disappointing exit in the semi-finals, as they were swept by cross-town rivals, the Sydney Kings.

What Worked:

Their semi-final loss last year to the Wildcats showed that the Hawks needed to add more offensive firepower to the roster to help out Tyler Harvey. They did exactly that by signing Duop Reath, Antonius Cleveland, and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, while also hoping to see a significant jump from Next Star Justinian Jessup.

Last season, Illawarra was the lowest-scoring team in the competition, averaging 81.5 points per game, but adding Reath, Cleveland, Rathan-Mayes, and Jessup’s improvement saw it become one of the best offensive teams in the league. Illawarra finished fourth for total points and second for average points, averaging 88.8 points per game.

What Didn’t:

Brian Goorjian’s teams are known for their defence, last season Illawarra was the third-best defensive team, conceding 81.6 points per game and although it was able to increase its offensive output this season its defence suffered as a result.

This season the Hawks ranked fourth for defensive ranking and seventh for points against, conceding 84.4 points per game. At one stage during the season, they ranked eighth for defensive ranking before turning it around in the second half of the season as they made their charge towards the finals.

Another thing that didn’t work this season for Illawarra was that its star guard Tyler Harvey found his second year in the NBL a little more difficult. This season the 28-year-old averaged 16.1 points per game (down from 20.4 last season), shooting 40 per cent from the field, and 30 per cent from three-point range.

Tyler Harvey had a down year in NBL22. (Image: @illawarrahawks – Twitter)

More NBL22 Season Reviews

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NBL22 Season Review: Perth Wildcats

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Club’s MVP:

It can always be difficult to pick an MVP, especially with the talent Illawarra had on its roster, but Illawarra’s best player award had to go to Duop Reath.

After spending his last three years playing overseas in Serbia, Reath’s first season in the NBL was one to behold. Coming into the league off the back of a Bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics and ambitions to get into the NBA, the 211cm centre started the season on fire averaging 19.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game in his first four games.

The 26-year-old’s form fluctuated during the middle part of the season paralleling Illawarra’s mid-season slump, but Reath fired when his side needed him the most in the back half of the season as it made its charge towards a top-four spot. Reath appeared in every game of the regular season. In 28 games, he averaged 15 points, seven rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game.

Reath’s stellar season was rewarded with winning the Hawks club MVP.

Import Antonius Cleveland would have been a close second, after enjoying his first season in the NBL where he was awarded the Damian Martin Trophy for Defensive Player of the Year and was also named to the All-NBL First Team.

Looking Ahead:

The Illawarra Hawks will still have sights on contending again next season, however, they will have to do it without head coach Brian Goorjian who stepped away from the role.

The 68-year-old will remain with Illawarra as a special advisor even though he will be the head coach of the Bay Area Dragons in the East Asia Super League. Goorjian’s long-time assistant Jacob Jackomas will step into the role as Illawarra’s head coach for NBL23.

Jackomas still has most of the key pieces signed to the team, with Tyler Harvey and Sam Froling under contract. However, forward Harry Froling has left, signing with the Brisbane Bullets.

Another major blow to the Hawk’s title chances next year is that they’ll be without Antonius Cleveland’s services with the forward signing with the Adelaide 36ers.

Despite the departure of those two players, Jackomas and the Hawks have signed capable replacements signing Deng Deng to a one-year deal, bringing the versatile forward back to Illawarra after he spent a year at Brisbane. Illawarra has also signed 21-year-old Wani Swaka Lo Buluk whose coming off winning the championship with rivals Sydney.

Duop Reath remains unsigned and the Hawks will want to ensure they can get his signature so the 211cm centre is back in red, black and white next year.

Duop Reath’s signature is a priority for Illawarra. (Image: @illawarrahawks – Twitter)

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