Illawarra have completed their roster with the addition of former Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks guard Antonius Cleveland.
The 27-year-old Memphis native will join the Hawks after stints in the G League with the Texas Legends and Oklahoma City - averaging 15 points, five rebounds three assists in his most recent 15 games for the latter
A genuine two-way force, Cleveland will be part of a backcourt rotation that includes franchise star Tyler Harvey and former Cairns and Bullets guard Travis Trice on his return to the NBL.
The shift to Australia will be his first venture outside of the US and, having had his most recent G-League campaign limited by the COVID pandemic, the 6 ft 5 guard plans to give the Hawks faithful plenty to cheer about.
"These last couple of seasons have been weird due to the pandemic," Cleveland said.
"I played 15 games last season in the bubble with the G-League. It's probably the shortest season I've ever played, but I got better in those 15 games. I shot career highs in everything, from free-throws to three-point percentage.
"I've been getting better and better and I'm just excited to go to a league like the NBL. When you leave after watching the Hawks play, I want you to be able to say 'man, that guy got me out of my seat a couple of times'.
"I'm going to play hard for the fans. It's a competitive league, a lot of NBA talent there, and I just look forward to continuing to get better as a player and challenging myself in all the areas I need to improve on."
Hawks president and co-owner Dorry Kordahi is confident Cleveland will bring defensive presence with scoring ability, shaping as the ideal complement to Harvey and Trice in the back court.
"Antonius has been plying his trade in high level basketball programs for several years and he was extremely excited by the prospect of joining us in the NBL," Kordahi said.
"He's a big, athletic wing and the type of player I think our fans will gravitate towards. He's exciting, he's fun, he's highly-skilled and he's ours to enjoy."
Cleveland will fill the third import slot on the Hawks roster, meaning reigning NBL Defensive Player of the Year and fan favourite Justin Simon won't return for the Hawks next season.
"We were in conversations with Justin but he has an opportunity with the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Summer League and we were determined to lock our roster down as soon as possible with a lot of uncertainty still around due to the ongoing pandemic," Kordahi said.
It's the final piece in the club's free agency puzzle and coach Brian Goorjian is excited to get to work with his new roster on his return from the Tokyo Olympics where he currently has the Boomers edging towards a medal.
"Anyone who shoots the ball the way [Cleveland] does and defends with his type of purpose is a welcome presence in my locker room," Goorjian said.
"He's another high-level guy with good basketball IQ, he's coming off another good season in the G-League and I can't wait to see what he can do in this lineup.
"Hawks fans should be as excited as I am right now because the front office has put together a very, very good lineup of players."
Justinian Jessup also has a year to run on his Next Stars deal.
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