10 May 2023

Nate Jawai ready to roll with the punches

| Samuel Davis
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FRIGHTENINGLY fierce boxing sessions with basketball legend Nate Jawai live vividly in Scott Callaghan’s memory.

The Cairns Taipans’ former strength and conditioning coach worked intensely with the Bamaga big man upon his return to Far North Queensland for the 2016-17 NBL season.

With cardio sessions a priority, the trainer handed the Cape York star the gloves one day and will never forget it.

Thundering right hooks hammered into Callaghan’s pads so forcefully he nearly fell over as the 208-centimetre giant followed through with each bone-rattling blow.

“He’s so tall I used to have to stand up on a bench,” Callaghan said laughing.

“It was a fair way down if I fell.”

The Taipans tall timber were an exciting mix of talented players with Alex Loughton, Mark Worthington, Tevin Jackson and Nnanna Egwu featured on the team’s roster that season.

But none matched the brute force Jawai could exert on the court, or in the gym, Callaghan said.

“When he first came back to us after he won the championship with Perth, we had to find the right balance with him,” he said.

“If he lifts too much, he puts on too much muscle. But for a big man he could run and move really well and he looks good doing it.

“The running was all about shorter distances at higher speeds.

“Taller blokes tend to look a bit funny (when they run) but not him. His mechanics were always really good.”

After parting ways with the Taipans, Jawai is currently auditioning for an NBL gig with the Darwin Salties in the league’s second-tier competition.

And while the centre exclusively told Cape York Weeklyhe is looking at career opportunities beyond basketball, the former NBA draft pick still hasn’t ruled out suiting up for another NBL team next season.

“Obviously I’d like to keep the door open,” the proud Torres Strait Islander said.

“That was part of the plan when I came here but I haven’t really thought about it too much.

“Wherever this (time with Salties) takes me is fine. But I’ll just stay ready and make an impact if I do get a contract (in the NBL).”

Beyond his obvious power, Callaghan said having the chance to watch the former Boomer up close revealed subtler aspects to his rim-rattling game.

“As big as he always was you could just see that he was so smart,” Callaghan said.

“He opened the floor up and if he wasn’t going to score he’d set up someone who could.

“He always knew where the open man was, which not everyone can do.

“When you’ve got a big target like that and play to his strengths, it’s scary.”

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