ILLAWARRA has locked in its first roster puzzle piece, confirming Emmett Naar will return to the Hawks for a third season when free agency opened on Wednesday.
Naar enjoyed a stellar rookie campaign under Rob Beveridge in 2018 though saw limited court time following the arrival of LaMelo Ball and Aaron Brooks in what was Matt Flinn's first - and only - season as coach last year.
Season-ending injuries to both marquee recruits saw Naar emerge as a genuine game-winner through the middle stretch of the season before injury slowed him up as the season wound down.
The St Mary's alum was expected to attract a mountain of interest in the player market after he and the rest of the club's young Boomers contingent became free agents when the club was placed into administration.
Naar admitted that it was difficult to map out a future with the club he debuted for while ownership uncertainty dragged on, but he was more than willing to commit when he got a call from newly appointed mastercoach Brian Goorjian.
"At the end of the year I was a bit unsure what was going to happen but I feel really comfortable with the ownership group that's come in and obviously having Brian Goorjian as coach," Naar said.
"Talking to Goorj a lot... just what he had to say was super positive both about his vision for the team and the ownership group's. As soon as I started talking to him, I realised we could get something really good going and hopefully it will transition to some wins and a lot of success in the upcoming seasons. I used to watch those Sydney Kings team that had the three-peat [of championships] and obviously Goorj was a massive part of that. To learn from someone with that kind of experience, he's coached a lot of great players, was an opportunity I couldn't pass up."
It will be welcome news for the Hawks faithful, with the 26-year-old establishing as a fan favourite in his two seasons in Wollongong. Naar said rewarding that with wins is a top priority.
"I've been with the Hawks the last two years, I know the town, I know the area and I love the fans there and that was a big factor," he said.
"They really got around us last year. Even thought we didn't win too many games they were always there, always chanting and and really loud when we made runs at home. They're really loyal fans, really great fans so the chance to come back and get wins in the Illawarra and with the Hawks is something I'm really excited about."
Goorjian made re-signing Naar a top priority when stepping into the Hawks role and was happy to have one of the league's best young playmakers on board.
"He is a terrific young talent and it was no surprise that he was the subject of a lot of interest from other teams," Goorjian said.
"Emmett's decision is a great endorsement of the club's direction and we look forward to making more exciting announcements over the coming weeks."
The Hawks are also expected to announce the return of fellow young guns Sam Froling and Dan Grida, while the club's also been linked to 19-game Cleveland Cavalier Deng Adel.
Angus Glover is set to link with the Kings, while the Hawks remain remain an, at best, outside chance of retaining the services of Sunday Dech, who's been strongly linked to other clubs.