Basketball

‘I felt the pressure to perform’: Broekhoff

Beware Illawarra Hawks, South East Melbourne Phoenix marquee star Ryan Broekhoff finally feels burden-free and he is coming for you.

Broekhoff concedes he has felt weighed down by the expectation to perform in his maiden NBL season following successful stints in the NBA and Europe.

But after dropping 26 points against the Hawks last week, including seven of 11 from beyond the arc, the former Dallas Maverick is ready to remove his straitjacket and unload his finest form.

Ryan Broekhoff has felt the expectation to perform upon his return to the NBL with the South East Melbourne Phoenix. Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

On Friday, Broekhoff will return to Wollongong to take on Illawarra full of confidence that he can replicate his best showing in the NBL.

“Yeah, I seem to like the rims down there,” Broekhoff said about his dominant effort against the Hawks in round 12.

“For me, it was a pressure release game. Coming in there has been quite a bit of media hype and I hadn’t really done too much in the first few games, and I felt a little bit of pressure on myself just to perform and live up to those expectations.

“To have a game like that was more of a relief that I can feel comfortable to play my natural game and not force things and have that external pressure.

“Whether it was there or not, I kind of felt it.

“But once I hit a couple of shots, my teammates started to really look for me and it was just one of those games where the shots started dropping.”

Broekhoff’s renewed confidence is a warning shot for Illawarra to be wary of the ex-NBA swingman.

The Hawks also face pressure to perform at home after losing their past three games to drop out of the top four.

Burden free ex-NBA star Ryan Broekhoff ready to fire for the South East Melbourne Phoenix. Picture: Morgan Hancock/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

Broekhoff is expecting a response from Brian Goorjian’s men.

“I think they’re going to come out fired up and full of energy and try to get the jump on us like they did in the first quarter last game,” he said.

“They’ll really get up, push the tempo and make it a really up-and-down game which suits them well.

“We‘ll have to absorb some of that and try to dictate the tempo of play to the way we want to play and make sure we’re the aggressors, not being the ones hunted.”

Coach Simon Mitchell also understands the importance of the Phoenix claiming two wins from their NSW road trip against the Hawks and then the Sydney Kings on Sunday.

“They are the classic double-points games for all of us really,” he said.

“We get an opportunity to separate ourselves from that three to four-placed pack and make it just a fight for that fourth position if we can take care of these games.

“Then we can refocus, and not that we would have absolutely secured our spot, but we can build a little bit of a gap and maybe look up and ask ourselves if we can be one of those top two teams.”

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