MARSHAWN Hampton hit Tamworth like a bolt from the blue on Sunday.
The 25-year-old American import is the first overseas recruit the Tamworth Thunderbolts have signed for many years and they hope he can bring success to this year’s state league campaign.
But the Bolts didn’t go easy on their new signing.
Hampton flew into Sydney on Sunday morning after 14 hours in the air and then endured the five-hour car journey to Tamworth.
But after coming all that way he still didn’t get to see the city that will be his home for the next five months straight away.
First stop was the Tamworth Sports Dome for training with his new Bolts teammates.
“It was really tough,” Hampton said after the training session.
“The flight was strenuous.
“After all those hours relaxing, to come here and go straight on court and have to perform was tough.
“My legs are extremely heavy right now.”
But the Atlanta product didn’t mind too much.
He’s never been overseas before but has come to Tamworth to play and, hopefully, win the state league.
The court is where he likes to be the most.
“I love the intensity and the camaraderie of playing basketball and meeting new guys,” he said.
“I came here for the chance to win a championship.
“I want to be a better player and to take my game to new places. I wanted to see how good I am in Australia versus how good I am in the United States.”
Hampton played in the professional American Basketball Association (ABA) for the Chicago Fury.
He will play guard for the Bolts, starting with this Saturday’s clash with Port Macquarie at the Sports Dome.
After training with the Bolts on Sunday, Hampton was impressed with his new teammates and just wants to contribute to the team.
“I think I did a good job fitting in with the guys,” he said.
“That’s one of the hardest things, fitting in.
“I have to find my role in the team.
“They were a great team before I was around.”
Bolts men’s coach John Ireland said Hampton has high standards for himself.
He wants to perform for Tamworth and Ireland is confident that he will.
“He will be a good scorer for us,” Ireland said.
“He just has to find his feet and know his role in the team.
“He’s got some good guys around him and some good leaders.
“He just wants to get out on the court and play.”
While Hampton is in Tamworth, he will not only play for the Bolts but coach the local juniors.
That will help their game and his own.
“I’m going to be doing some coaching with some young players,” he said.
“It’s always good to help others to be better players.
“It will help me too because I will see the game from a different view.
“It’s about teaching different techniques and skill sets and approaches to make defence easier, scoring easier, making the game of basketball easier.”
Ireland said his arrival would be good for the sport in the district, not only because of his ability on the court.
“It’s just about creating excitement,” Ireland said.
“It’s good for kids and good for basketball in Tamworth.
“That’s what it’s all about.”
Hampton also hopes to see a little bit of Australia.
He hopes to get back to Sydney for his birthday next month but is disappointed he had missed the NBL season.
Saturday’s game against Port is Tamworth’s first home game of the season and Bolts junior rep players are reminded that they can get in for free if they bring their cards and wear their Tamworth polo shirts.
The Bolts women also top off this weekend with an unprecedented three games in Newcastle over the weekend.