NEWCASTLE Hunters coach Chloe Mullaney wants her players to be excited but not overawed by the chance to play alongside Australian Opals guard and home-grown heroine Katie Ebzery.
The 31-year-old Rio Olympian, who is preparing for a second Olympic campaign with the Opals in Tokyo later this year, will line up for her junior club at Newcastle Basketball Stadium on Saturday against Central Coast Crusaders at 5pm.
The Reunion Night showdown against Crusaders will be the first appearance in a five-game guest stint for Ebzery as she uses the Waratah League for match practice in the lead-up to Tokyo.
The Women's National Basketball League veteran will also play against Illawarra and Sutherland on the road (May 29 and 30), and at home against the Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence and Canberra Nationals (June 19 and 20).
"It's a fantastic opportunity for Katie to get some games in before the Olympics," Mullaney said.
"It's great for us too because of what she brings as a player and a person, and it will lift some pressure off our senior players in terms of scoring. The main thing for our younger players is getting used to having Katie around, because for a lot of them, it will probably feel a bit surreal and they're probably going to feel in awe of her at first.
"She's been a childhood hero to a lot of these girls and they've grown up watching her play and cheering for her so they're going to think, 'here she is, and I'm training and playing with her'.
"So once that wears off and settles down a bit, we want the girls to embrace the opportunity to train and play with someone of Katie's experience and standing in the game, we want them to learn from that, and be better for the experience."
Newcastle sit atop Pool B with a 4-1 win-loss record after back-to-back victories over Manly and Inner West Bulls last weekend.
Hunters coach Rex Nottage is preparing for a typically physical affair against Crusaders in the men's game at 7pm.
Central Coast were Waratah League champions in 2019 and, despite sitting at the bottom of Pool B with a 0-4 record, are an experienced unit and always lift for games against Newcastle.
"These games can be quite physical and aggressive but the key for us is not getting caught up in that," Nottage said.
"We need to play smart, play through it, concentrate on what we need to do, and do those things well."
With all five senior representative teams playing on Saturday, and games starting at 11am, Newcastle Basketball officials anticipate one of their biggest crowds of the season for Reunion Night.