One of the things the Dino Nation Blog can take pride in is being one of the first places outside of Australia to tell you about the story of Nathan Jawai. In the past, we have had Aaron Fearne come talk with us about Nathan and his journey. However we are now pleased to talk with Nate himself. Nathan has recently made his way to Idaho to play with the Stampede in the D-league. It has been a season that has had a lot of bumps in the road but Nathan is now getting out on the floor and seeing time with the Stampede. I started there with Nathan asking him how it felt to be getting out there and playing significant minutes for the first time in a long while.
Nathan Jawai-" Yeah, it is exciting. It is great to be back out there playing some minutes. I'm just excited after 3 months I am able to be back out on the floor and being out there is great."
Nathan had been sidelined from the start of the year with a concern about his heart that came up from testing prior to training camp. So that kept him out of action. I had been told by Aaron and others that Nate had really just been frustrated and wanted to get back on the floor. Here is what he had to say about that.
Nathan Jawai-" I was worried about the condition I had but now that I am back I don't even think about it. Basically it was nothing anyway, and I was just worried if I would be able to play again. It has been frustrating for me and it has been hard but it is all behind me now and I am just looking forward to be back on the NBA court."
The road to that will go through Idaho with the Stampede. I asked Nathan what the Raptors and he were looking for him to work on while he was down with the Stampede.
Nathan Jawai-" Basically it is getting back into basketball shape that is the biggest thing for me while I am down here. Also to work on my rebounding and my defense and getting use to the speed of the game, because back home it is totally different."
Back home for Nathan is of course Australia and I asked him how it had been for him through all of this season as far as support from back home.
Nathan Jawai-" They have been great. I have a lot of friends that support me, I have my girlfriend that supports me, I got a lot of support. They have been great for me. If I didn't have them it would have been harder for me to return to the court. Right now they have all been great for me. I keep in contact with home a couple times a month. They are all happy to hear that I am back on the court and that I am all healthy."
It is important to realize that Nathan is fairly new to the sport of basketball this time for him on the court be it in Idaho or anywhere is valuable. Nathan talks about his quick path to this point he is at.
Nathan Jawai-" Yeah, this is my 5th year. Looking back on what I have done so far it is unbelievable. When I look back 5 years ago I wouldn't think it would take me this amount of time to get to the NBA. It is unbelievable and I can't believe that I am here. But I am blessed that it only took me 5 years to get here. Now that I am here, I just want to achieve and do the best that I can to get back on court and be a force in the NBA"
In making the choice to enter the NBA draft it cost Nathan a chance to play for Australia this summer in the Olympics in Beijing. I asked Nathan for his thoughts on having to make that choice.
Nathan Jawai-" It has hard but I had 2 options to come to the draft or stay and play for the national team. The rules for the draft if I was in college I would have had another year before I would have had to enter the draft. But because I played professionally in Australia I had to go in this year. So with the Australian team I will always have a chance to go back and play for my country. So, probably in the future I will be wearing that green and gold uniform and I am looking forward to that as well."
While Nathan was unable to play for the his nation. A good friend of his was. Pat Mills made an impact for Australia and people noticed. NBA scouts and high praise from NBA stars like Chris Paul. I asked Nathan how it felt to be watching his friend do so well on that stage.
Nathan Jawai-" I mean yeah it was a big surprise. He has come a long way himself. This year he may be entering (The Draft) I don't know but I hope that he does. To see him get on the court and compete against the Americans and other countries the way he carried himself and played was really amazing because when I was at the Institute ( The Australian Institute of Sport) I saw a different Patty."
Mills took that Olympic experience and translated to his play with St. Mary's this year in the NCAA. He had been having a great season until breaking his hand in a game in conference play. I asked Nathan if he had been following how he had been doing. He said he got a chance to see him play live in San Francisco and kept close tabs on him watching on T.V and he saw the game that he was injured has hand. He says he talks with him on a regular basis about once a week. Mills if you have not seen him is an under sized guard that for me is a lot like a Jameer Nelson. They even look a like a little bit. He has amazing speed and his highly skilled. Aaron Fearne in a past interview had glowing things to say about his play, his ability and his potential. His St. Mary's squad, thanks in part to his injury and not being able to play, sit on the bubble for getting in the NCAA Tournament.
As for Nathan what are his plans for the off-season to come. What will he be doing this summer?
Nathan Jawai-" Basically what I am down here for. To get in shape and get use to the speed of the game. Working on my shot and my skills. Try to get better so I can secure a long NBA contract after my season next year. That is what I am looking out for. So my summer will be a pretty hard one this year. I am looking forward to that and trying to get back to where I left off."
What has Nathan learned about the NBA game?
Nathan Jawai-" How to defend in the post is different from back home. Basically it is the speed for me that is what it is. It is basically the same but the tempo and the speed is a lot faster. The thing is the guys playing at this level everyone is good. There is no one on a team that is a bad player. That is why it's hard. You always have to be ready that is what I have learned from practicing and sitting on the sidelines."
Given the season that the Raptors have had some have lost patience with everything. However from all the basketball people I have talked with they all see great potential in Nathan and what he can become. Nathan I had been told by everyone that he is a great person and has a great attitude. The folks with the Stampede have been impressed with him and see that potential. It has been hard for Raptor fans to see that in the limited time they have got to see Nathan but if you get the chance fire up your computer and check out the Stampede and watch him and I think you will be impressed. I watched him play in the Las Vegas Summer league and he had an impressive game against Golden State. He has flashes of great plays and you can see why people were impressed by him. It was unfortunate, that his progression was halted for 3 months and there is work for him to do just to get back to the point he was at heading into his first NBA season. However, he is more than willing to put in that work. He also has come so far so fast it would be foolish to bet against him at this point. I know here at the Dino Nation Blog we are not going to do that. In fact we do the opposite and wish Nathan nothing but success in his future heading forward. I want to thank Nathan and also thank the Idaho Stampede Organization for helping set up this interview, and all the interviews we have been doing with the recently. They have been very willing to work with the Dino Nation Blog and that is a great thing.