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Hawks hit back at Clarke NBL critics

AAP logoAAP 14/11/2016 Matt Encarnacion

Illawarra Hawks coach Rob Beveridge has hit back at critics calling for the sacking of import Rotnei Clarke and backed a return to his MVP-winning form.

Former NBL stars James Harvey and Chris Anstey have led a chorus of calls for Clarke's head after a subpar beginning to the NBL season that had the Hawks in last place after a month.

Clarke is averaging 13 points on 39 per cent shooting after nine games this season, well below the 21 points on 46 per cent shooting he enjoyed in his MVP season in 2013-14.

However Beveridge has refused to follow a growing trend of NBL clubs quick to pull the trigger on their underperforming imports, opting to stay patient with the 27-year-old American.

"I don't think that I'm of a culture that wants to threaten players to perform," Beveridge told AAP.

"If you have ownership groups or people that come in and try and say, 'If you're not performing, you're gone," a win-at-all-costs mentality, it creates external pressure that's not necessary.

"I listen to James Harvey on TV and Chris Anstey's tweeting, saying, 'Rotnei should be gone, they should be replacing him because other teams are getting rid of their imports.'

"But I just don't operate that way. We're going to back these guys, we're going to work with what we've got because we do have a very good team."

Beveridge admits Clarke has struggled with the increased scrutiny that has followed his heralded homecoming to Wollongong after a two-year stint in Europe.

But he remains confident Clarke will find another gear as the season progresses.

"There was a huge expectation that he was going to come out and have 25 a game like he did when he was here before," Beveridge said.

"But the league is so much better now. People are just playing so much more attention to him and making it so much more difficult for him in the way he's getting defended.

"I know he'll get better because he's too good a player not to shoot the ball well. At the moment he's below 30 per cent from three, but he's one of the best shooters I've ever seen."

The Hawks have improved to fifth in the eight-team league after winning three of their past four and face a difficult double against New Zealand this week.

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