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All roads lead to an NBL eruption for Akoldah Gak

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After a busy ‘off-season’ at the NBA Summer League, a breakout NBL season awaits Illawarra Hawks forward Akoldah Gak. He spoke exclusively to Courtney Ward for Only Sports.

The NBL23 season looms as a breakout campaign for Illawarra Hawks young gun Akoldah Gak.

The big man has just returned home after a hectic and productive period in the United States.

“The past few months completely changed my whole mindset and approach to the game,” Gak said.

“I feel like I needed to experience the whole NBA style and I’m now ready to come back here and dominate in the NBL.”

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Following Illawarra’s semi-final elimination by arch-rivals Sydney, Gak played one NBL1 game for the Hawks before basing himself in Dallas for several weeks. 

The 20-year-old had pre-NBA Draft workouts with Utah, Milwaukee and Chicago; plus an open workout at Sports Academy at the Star. All in a day’s work for a young baller doing all they can to emerge.

“The training in Dallas was great and definitely helped my game,” he said.

“The facility was NBA-level and had some of the best trainers I’ve worked with.

“The workout I did there, as well as the three I did with the NBA sides as part of the pre-Draft process, were amazing, as it gave me a chance to go up against so many different kids who had the same goal as me.”

While he wasn’t ultimately selected in the 2022 Draft, he was quickly scooped up and added to the Bulls’ Summer League roster, alongside fellow NBL big man Makur Maker (Sydney Kings) – who were both parts of Chicago’s six-day training camp, which tipped off on July 1.

Then, upon their arrival at Nevada, the Bulls played fixtures against Dallas, New York, Toronto, Charlotte and Philadelphia.

“During my time in Vegas, I believe I held my own in the time I got but I’m one of those guys who always feel I could have done more,” said Gak, who had his best performance of two points, three rebounds, one assist and one block against the Knicks.

“In the same vein, it was a surreal experience and seeing all the best players in the world in my age group showcase what they can do is something I’ll never forget.

“My main takeaway is to take every opportunity I get and make an impact on the court, whether that’s getting a bucket, a block, a defensive stop – anything to impact the game.”

It’s that mentality that has the Penrith product, who is now back in Australia, ready for his third campaign with the Wollongong-based NBL club – who tip-off pre-season training next month.

“I really haven’t had a chance to play the past couple of years, so my mindset is to kill when I get that opportunity – which I’m confident I’ll get this season,” he said.

“I’m really excited to see what we can do as a group under new coach Jacob Jackomas.”

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