He might be the NBL’s most talented all-round centre – smart, strong, skilful and fast with the vision and instincts of a point guard.
But Illawarra Hawks linchpin AJ Ogilvy insists he doesn’t need validation or acknowledgement he’s the best at his position and certainly doesn’t need his ego stroked by statistics.
All he cares about is winning.
The third-placed Hawks (10-9) have been doing a fair bit of that lately and Ogilvy’s contributions at both ends have been a key factor.
But by his own admission, some of the 28-year-old’s performances earlier in the season weren’t up to scratch.
He understands his importance to the Hawks’ title prospects and believes they are well positioned to finish the 28-game regular season in top spot.
“Obviously I can always get better,” Ogilvy said.
“I’ve been happier with the past few weeks, but before that I was a bit upset with what I’d been contributing to the team. I just felt that, while we were winning games, I could give more to the team and help the team win.
“At the end of the day we’re winning games now, and I’d much rather be winning games than scoring points, so it really doesn’t matter to me. As long as we’re winning games I’m good to go.
“With the team we’ve got this year, everyone can really put points on the board, so being able to get guys open and get them good looks is just as good for me as putting points on the board.
“I just want to win. I’ve been on losing teams and it sucks. I’m happy to be here trying to win games with these guys.
“We’re placed really well. Looking at the start of the season to where we are now, we’ve come a long way. Everyone’s really happy and obviously winning creates that atmosphere.”
While Ogilvy’s numbers are down a little from last season, they still underline his versatility and capabilities.
The former Sydney Kings centre is playing 24 minutes per night and averaging 10.5 points at 44 percent, 6.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals.
Ogilvy enjoys his battles with opposing big men and says every matchup brings different challenges.
“[Nate] Jawai is probably the toughest matchup for me,” he said.
“We play very differently in that I like to use my speed and he likes to use his strength. I’m tough for him to guard too, but he’s big and strong and probably the toughest guy for me to guard individually.
“[Aleks] Maric is much the same. He seals really hard in the key and uses his size really well, but again, we play very different games of basketball, and part of it is me trying to use my strengths against them.”
Tough as they have been on the road for most of the season, Illawarra have been hot and cold at home.
That has to change if they are going to emerge as a true championship contender.
With seven of their final 10 games in Wollongong, the Hawks have a perfect opportunity to turn their home court into a fortress.
“We knew we had a lot of away games in the middle of the season and we’ve talked about coming home really hard, plus it’s much easier to build momentum when you’re regularly playing at home,” Ogilvy said.
“We’ve been fairly lucky with injuries so hopefully we can keep that good fortune going because it’s going to really contribute to which teams make the finals. We’ve got great depth and teams that stay healthy will have the best chance of playing well at the end of the year and in the playoffs.
“Everyone’s aware of how close the league is and how talented every team is, so there’s definitely no nights off. We just have to take advantage of this run at home.”
Illawarra have won eight of their past 12 games and blew the chance to move a step closer to top spot with the New Year’s Eve home loss to Perth.
Anything less than a spot in the finals will be a failure.
“If you’d asked us six weeks ago we would’ve just said we’d love to make the playoffs, but we’ve really turned our season around and we’ve worked hard to do it, so with that work we’ve put in, obviously now it would be disappointing if we didn’t make the playoffs,” Ogilvy said.
The only team Illawarra haven’t conquered is Cairns.
The Hawks have lost two meetings with the Taipans by double digits, giving up their own 12-point lead in the most recent clash at Cairns.
Blowing match-winning leads has been a disturbing feature of numerous Hawks performances and they are working hard to fix it.
“I really think it’s mental toughness, and just making sure we finish out every game and not letting teams make runs at us,” Ogilvy said.
“And if they do make runs, we’ve got time to minimise those runs so it doesn’t cut into our lead and it doesn’t become a one or two-point game down the stretch.
“We’re getting better at closing out those games but we’ve gotta make sure we don’t put ourselves in those situations. That’s the next step for us.
“Both Cairns games were disappointing, but the last one probably hurt us more. We were up a bunch of points in their gym and we pissed it down our leg, so that was disappointing because it’s hard to get road wins in this league. With the league being so close you have to take every one you can get and we let that one slip.
“Bevo [coach Rob Beveridge] tells us when we have a team down we’ve gotta keep our foot on their throat. We have to keep pressing, take care of the ball and make shots, because that’s what hurt us in Cairns. It was definitely one to learn from.”