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  • Sam Davis

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    Jawai finding his feet on home soil

    Basketball journeyman Nathan Jawai's return home hasn't entirely gone to plan. But the big man says he's getting better every day. 

    Cairns Taipans centre Nnanna Egwu wakes up some mornings nursing a few more niggles than he cares to admit.

    But that’s what happens when you’re Nathan Jawai’s sparring partner at practice. 

    “Bangin’ against Nate sometimes for a whole week for up to two hours per day is tough,” Egwu says smirking. 

    “You just think ‘God, please just give me somebody else'.

    “But I think it’s good for us to compete against each other like that. It’s been a good experience.”

    While the 140-kilogram Jawai has eased into the NBL season after suffering a finger injury earlier in the year, coach Aaron Fearne says the Snakes’ key recruit is capable of more.

    “I think he’s been fair to date but needs to improve,” Fearne says.

    “Nate wasn’t brought in here to be a role player. He needs to be a marquee player for us.

    “He’s been interrupted by injury … [but] he needs to be a 15-points a game type guy and get double digits on the glass.

    “He can make a huge impact and can help us win a lot of games.”

    Despite a slow start, Jawai has shown glimpses of his best, scoring 19 points and grabbing seven rebounds against the Sydney Kings in round five.

    The Bamaga big man has also proven to be a favourite with young Taipans fans - making an effort to engage with supporters after home games.

    “That’s fun for me,” Jawai says. “I like kids. I have two daughters of my own.”

    “Most of the kids I see after games are nephews and nieces. I’m a local, you know.

    “There’s this little kid that always comes to the games and dances.

    “I love him. He always gives me a hug after and calls my name.”

    Jawai says he’s settled in nicely since re-joining the Taipans after an extended stint overseas before playing with the Perth Wildcats last year.

    “I’ve had a routine since day one when I first came back,” he says.

    “This is home for me. It’s been fun. My teammates are great. Everybody’s getting along and it’s a great environment.”

    This weekend Jawai will be looking to bring his best against the New Zealand Breakers at home.

    “They’re a dangerous team,” he says.

    “They can win anywhere. They have three outstanding players in Abercrombie, Penney, and Webster. Then they’ve got Mika [Vukona]. He’s the heart of the team.”

    The Taipans play New Zealand at the Cairns Convention Centre this Sunday.