Nathan Jawai: Australian Impact

Jonah Ballow
Wolves Editor/Writer
Email / Twitter

When arriving at the practice facility several weeks ago, I was grateful for inner monologue. Approaching the 6-foot-11, 285-pound Wolves newcomer, a quote from the movie Dumb and Dumber jumped to the forefront of my brain after listening to Nathan Jawai speak for the first time.

"That's a lovely accent you have. New Jersey?" This question from Lloyd Christmas, who was either the Dumb or the Dumber -- a debate for another day.

Obviously, Jawai hails from Australia on a select list of current NBA players that were born in the land down under. The impressive coordination displayed on the hardwood floor is a result of experience in a completely different sports realm. Jawai spent his formidable years bulldozing opponents on the pitch, which surprisingly led to a gig in the NBA.

"I played Rugby when I was growing up, Jawai remembered. "I am Aussie, so we have that rugby background in us. I played Rugby ever since I was little, so I'm used to the banging and stuff like that. I think that it helps a little bit in basketball."

Around the age of 15, Jawai attended the Australian Institute of Sport, learning the nuances of basketball beyond crashing his way towards the basket. Jawai then played at Midland College in Texas for a brief stint before returning to Australia. The big man started catching the eye of NBA scouts while suiting up for the National Basketball League against professional competition. In fact, Jawai scored 24 points and grabbed 12 boards in a MVP 2008 NBL All-Star performance.

The rise to the premier basketball league in the world took place during the 2008 NBA Draft. Originally picked by the Indiana Pacers 41st overall, Jawai was immediately dealt to the Toronto Raptors along with Jermaine O'Neal. Just one year later, the Australian again packed his bags for a trip to Dallas after the Mavericks acquired Jawai and Shawn Marion. In mid-October, Minnesota sent the Mavericks a conditional 2012 second round pick for Jawai. The dizzying experience has not jaded him in the least bit.

"It's been a journey so far," Jawai said. "It's just a business and I can't let that bother me and I have to work hard to get myself minutes, so that I can show people I can play in this league."

Journey? Jawai is roughly over eight thousand miles away from home and about to endure the frigid Minneapolis winter. His personality is anything but cold. Only a couple of weeks into the season, Jawai made an impression on his teammates and the coaching staff.

"He's great, he's got a quick wit, very funny guy, light-hearted but he doesn't mind banging and being physical," Rambis said with a smile. "I think everybody has seen the tremendous potential for a guy that can move that quickly, that has that big of a body, nice soft shot, can run the floor. He's just got to continue to work on his game, stamina, and conditioning."

Jawai's larger than life personality matches his super-sized body. With Kevin Love missing the first month of the season, Jawai realized the opportunity to contribute for the Wolves.

"Like I said before, I just need to come in, be physical, that's what we need on this team so far, learn the offense because it's new to everyone, not just myself and I'm not the one who has been through training camp with the team so I have to pick that stuff up real quick and show the coaches that I'm interested to be here as well. I want to work hard and help this team," Jawai said.

At the three-minute mark of the first quarter in Portland last Sunday, Jawai replaced Al Jefferson in the lineup. Less than two minutes later, Jawai snagged an offensive rebound and completed an old fashioned 3-point play. Jawai finished with a team-high 16 points in 22 minutes of court time against one of the best frontcourts in the league.

"Nathan has impressed the coaching staff from day one," Rambis said. "He's very light on his feet, he can move well, he understands the game. He was doing a lot of his stuff tonight against very good centers in this league," Rambis said following the Portland game.

Intelligent basketball fans will see the innate abilities from Jawai. However, Wolves fans should take notice of the engaging personality out of their new big man in the post. President of basketball of operations David Kahn has already signed up for the fan club.

"He seems to have a really sweet personality, gentle at least off the floor and he seems really happy all the time. You know, he seems happy to be here and I like that." Kahn said.

For the next five months, I will continue to bite my tongue and rely on inner monologue to contain all the Australian jokes or references to nicknames such as Aussie Shaq, Outback Shaq or Baby Shaq.

Ok, one last quote for the road. "Well, then. G'day mate! Let's put another shrimp on the barbie!"
For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Jonah on Twitter.