NBA

Hawks draftee Alpha Kaba embracing Mr. Irrelevant tag, NBA opportunity

The plane landed around 4 a.m. local time in Belgrade, Serbia. Alpha Kaba was experiencing an adrenaline rush.

After spending nearly two weeks in the United States working out for seven teams, the French product and 6-foot-10 Adriatic League standout was eagerly checking his phone as the second round of the 2017 NBA Draft started. Kaba, admittedly stressed, had been monitoring the event throughout the nine-hour flight. He and his Mega Leks teammates were still available.

We just take our baggage, take a taxi, go home straight to see the end of the draft, Kaba said. I see my man getting drafted at (pick No.) 49, Vlatko Cancar. My man Ognjen Jaramaz (at) 58 with the Knicks. I was so happy and just called him (to say), Whats up.

Reality set in: There are only 60 total selections in the draft.

And then I realized I wasnt drafted yet, you know? I realized I wasnt drafted yet so I was pretty scared, Kaba continued. I just like saw 59, still not drafted. And then I see 60 and I cant explain the feeling I had.

"I can't explain the feeling I had" @ATLHawks' Alpha Kaba recounts his Draft Night experience. #TrueToAtlanta pic.twitter.com/WZQzGkgg40

— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) June 26, 2017

Atlantas new-look front office, helmed by former Warriors executive Travis Schlenk, made Kaba the 2017 version of the NBAs Mr. Irrelevant. The 20-year-old wears the distinction with joyfulpride, aiming to join a list of productive 60th overall picks from Michael Cooper to Drazen Petrovic to current Celtics star Isaiah Thomas.

Kabas phone bill can attest to his enthusiasm. When news of the Hawks pick reached his TV set, he dialed his family, his best friend, his agent practically everyone of note: To share with them, that was like the craziest moment in my life.I think I didnt sleep all day. That was really a special moment for me.

Neighbors in his Belgrade apartment complex can also vouch for the big mans excitement.

I think I even woke up my neighbors because I was screaming in my apartment, Kaba continued, so I think like all the building was awake because of me.

The Hawks introduced Kaba alongside earlier picks John Collins and Tyler Dorsey on Monday morning, but while the American college standouts should followfairly clear-cut paths to the worlds top league with the occasional rookie rite of passage through the rebranded G League Kabas immediate future is up in the air. The current plan is to play in Summer League with his fellow draftees, undrafted free agents and additional Hawks developmental projects before reevaluating his status with his agent and the coaches. Theres a good chance he could return to play in Serbia next season.

Still, the front office sees upside in forward/center who put up 10.9 points and 7.5 rebounds in a competitive league at 20 years old.

His length with a 7-5 wingspan, his ability to rebound, his ability to run, Schlenk said, listing Kabas strengths. Hes got a really nice touch on his jumpshot that we feel like we can develop.

Theocean-hopping draft night was a step forward for Kaba, who worked out for teams but withdrew his name from the previous drafts. Following years of watching recorded NBA games and highlights the nextmorning in France and Serbia, Kaba is inching closer toadestination he's eyed since watching his uncle play pro ball.

Some people might say the 60th pick isnt something special," Kaba said. "But yes, it is something special because you are in the 60 players who have the opportunity to be drafted and have the opportunities to play in the Summer League and everything, to show up.

"Its really really the best thing I could have asked for.

. @ATLHawks GM Travis Schlenk is excited to work with his first Draft class in Atlanta. #TrueToAtlanta pic.twitter.com/3yP8DbYNEN

— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) June 26, 2017