Hawks Next Star AJ Johnson is "excited to learn" from veteran Hawks teammates.

9 Jul
By Dan Woods for

It may have been in a workout on the other side of the world, but Illawarra fans have finally had their first view of Next Star signing AJ Johnson with a Hawks logo on his chest.

Johnson completed a workout in front of a large group of invested on-lookers – including Hawks coach Jacob Jackomas and NBA legend Jerry West – and says he is looking forward to linking up with his new teammates.

“I’m just really excited to learn from them,” Johnson said of the likes of Hawks imports Tyler Harvey and Gary Clark.

“They’ve been playing for a long time so I’m just really excited to get a lot of information from them about the game, and just learn and soak up everything.

“[I’m] just a person that’s going to put on a show, have a lot of fun, respect his teammates – no ego, none of that – [and] just try and get out there and win.”

Jackomas is part of a large contingent of Hawks representatives to make the trip over to NBA Summer League.

Illawarra's import contingent consists of co-captain Tyler Harvey, the returning Justin Robinson and former NBA forward Gary Clark, while the bulk of the roster is already confirmed for next season.

Jackomas says despite the high-profile signings of Johnson and Clark, he’s keen to temper early expectations on the new-look side.

“We had a bad record last season,” he said. “We don’t want to overhype this at all.

“One game at a time and one practice at a time, and hopefully at the end of the season we’re in the mix for a championship.

“There were a lot of things that went wrong last year, but one thing is we learned from our mistakes.”

Johnson is one of the most hyped American Next Stars to enter the NBL since LaMelo Ball’s Rookie of the Year campaign in NBL20.

The 18-year-old decommitted from powerhouse collegiate program Texas in order to join the Hawks, and Jackomas says the fact such a highly talented player is leaving his development in his team's hands speaks volumes about the club.

“To have someone like that in our program, make a decision to come and develop, and put himself out there with our group of guys is always exciting,” Jackomas said.

“He [Johnson] can see the love right now. We’ve got a lot of people here from the club, and Gary (Clark) has come down here to hang out as well.

“It’s building well.”

Illawarra’s first game of the NBL24 season is set to come against local rivals Sydney on Saturday, September 30.

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