Less than a year ago, Sudanese-Australian Mayan Kiir was battling to keep his hoops dream alive, but a stint in the Basketball Africa League led to a spot with the Westchester Knicks in the upcoming NBA affiliated G League.
Just 10 months ago, Kiir, who moved to Australia when he was four and then to the USA as a teen, was turning out for Central Baptist College [CBC] - the fourth team of his rollercoaster US college career.
But the 24-year-old power forward's star turn at the BAL for Cobra Sport, under the guidance of his childhood coach Manyang 'Manny' Berberi, saw a U-turn in his fortunes and a trip to New York.
Kiir averaged 18.8 PPG and 11.2 RPG in the BAL and was the standout player in a Cobra Sport side that narrowly missed out on the playoffs.
The G League tips off on Nov. 4 and it is unclear whether Kiir will play for the Knicks immediately. When asked what his expectations were in this regard, Kiir told ESPN: "I don't want to answer that because I'm just here to play.
"Whatever they need from me, I'll do. I'm not expecting to come out there and [get] minutes. I never did.
"The only reason why I got minutes [at the BAL] is because I wanted to win. I'm not going to go to the G League and say: 'I'm expecting this many minutes.'
"I'm excited. It's the closest I've ever been to my dream and I never thought I would ever get this close to my dream. I'm not satisfied - absolutely not satisfied - but excited."
Kiir, who left South Sudan for Australia at four years old when his father stayed behind to fight in the Second Sudanese Civil War, started playing for Berberi's Longhorns Basketball Club in Melbourne when he was 11.
He then earned a scholarship to play high school basketball for Victory Rock Prep in Florida and subsequently had stints at LSU, South Florida, and New Mexico State before CBC. However, by his own admission, Kiir struggled to feel fully settled in the US, and being away from his family affected him on and off the court.
"As a young man, it's hard growing up without your parents. You've got to find out everything by yourself. They can call you and stuff but your experience is different... It's definitely affected me. I can tell that if I was around family more, I can tell that I would have done things a lot different," Kiir said.
"I left [for the US] at a young age. I left at like 13 or 14 years old. Leaving at such a young age makes you have to grow up fast and a lot of times, you make a lot of wrong decisions at that age.
"When I played in the Basketball Africa League, it was the first time that I realised that I can do this [play big-time basketball] and it's definitely possible. In college, I wasn't able to do that because I didn't play much in college, but when I played at the BAL, I was playing games where I could showcase [my talent]."
Spiritually restored after spending quality time with his loved ones in South Sudan after the BAL earlier this year, Kiir praised Berberi for once again helping him revive his career.
"He's always seen something in me. He's a coach that's known me since I was a kid and he saw something in me that a lot of people didn't... Also, at the same time, a lot of people did see what was in me, but because of the mistakes I made, people stopped believing in me," Kiir said.
Kiir declined to offer details on which decisions in his life he regrets, beyond saying that they were not basketball-related. He is hopeful that his stint with the Knicks will erase those regrets, and lead to further forward momentum.