Less than a week out from the Illawarra Hawks' first preseason game against an NBL opponent, American star centre Josh Boone says he is excited at the opportunity for his side to prove itself in Ballarat on Friday night at the Sports and Event Centre.
There has been much fan-fair surrounding the Hawks over the off-season after the signings of former NBA most improved player award winner Aaron Brooks and teenage sensation LaMelo Ball.
Boone, who made the move from Melbourne to Illawarra, told The Courier he is eager to see how his group fairs against his former team.
"Melbourne is good, they have a lot of big-time players," he said.
"They've got a lot of weapons like they have had for the last couple of years but in turn it's going to be about a team effort for us. It'll be a good barometer for us to see where we're at."
One player Boone is keen to see on Friday is Ballarat born-and-bred Sam Short, who is entering the final year of his development contract with United.
The 208 centimetre American said he saw a lot of growth from Short over the past two years and is confident of his ability to take the next step in his development.
"I've seen a lot of growth from (Short). He's really worked on his body and is getting stronger, that was something I really noticed last year.
"With him it's just about confidence, when he goes out there with confidence and doesn't care about who he's playing against and just plays hard he plays well... the more he plays and the more time he gets the better he's going to be."
The Hawks will be hoping its own young star can thrive in Ballarat as LaMelo Ball faces NBL competition for the first time.
Boone says he has been encouraged in what he has seen from Ball in practice to date, but relented he expects there to be an adjustment period for the 18-year-old.
"It's just like any other import player that comes over here, there's going to be an adjustment period. We haven't yet played against an NBL team... so far he's looked really good in practice and I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do against some of the top guys in our league."
Having played in Ballarat previously with Melbourne United, Boone said he believes it's important to showcase the sport in regional areas.
"We're still in the process of trying to grow the game in Australia... It's one thing to see us on TV but it's a completely different story when we actually go to your town and are right in front of you, I think that generates a lot more excitement and a lot more buzz for the game."
Melbourne and Illawarra will face off on Friday evening from 7.30pm. The Courier will be running a live blog to keep you up to date with all the action from the game.
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