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NBL Bul Kuol laps up whirlwind NBA opportunity en route to South Sudan – ESPN

Bul Kuol, the NBL22 Rookie of the Year, produced a stellar season for Cairns Taipans, with the sharpshooter busting Shane Heal’s longstanding record for 3-point makes by an Australian rookie in a single season.

To cap off the individual effort, Kuol signed an extension for NBL23, committing to the Snakes’ young core for a further campaign.

With the dust settling on his rookie season, Kuol planned to spend time with his family, before representing South Sudan in next month’s FIBA World Cup qualifying window. What he didn’t plan for was a detour to Chicago and Cleveland, for workouts with the NBA franchises across a jam packed few days of travel.

“All of this has just come out of nowhere. My agent is giving me new information, talking about the Chicago Bulls having some interest of bringing me in, but none of it was really anything concrete,” Kuol told ESPN from California.

“Four days ago I found out they wanted to bring me in for a workout. I didn’t know if I wanted to do it because it was so sudden. I decided let’s go for it, booked the flights same day and took off for Chicago.”

A jet lagged Kuol took part in a workout with the Bulls, before also completing a similar workout with Cleveland Cavaliers, sparking some buzz that a Summer League invite could cap off a stunning rise over the last six months.

“There hasn’t really been anything concrete yet,” Kuol says of a Summer League roster spot.

“All of this has just come out of nowhere. I took off on Thursday, got in that day, it was a long flight and long process but once I got there, they took good care of me. It was an early workout, going through some testing. They just want to see you in person, see how you compete, how you communicate and listen. It’s more of a character-based thing.

“It’s not something I was planning; my goal was to go home and be with my family and spending time with them. I didn’t really have any type of goal to try and get to Summer League or the U.S. It was just preparing for the next NBL season and representing South Sudan in the FIBA World Cup qualifiers. When I suddenly decided to do this, I just thought why not take the chance?”

Given the whirlwind nature of the last few days, Kuol hardly had a chance to wrap his head around the gravity of the opportunity in front of him, keeping in mind that only six months ago he wasn’t even assured of rotation minutes with the Taipans.

“It’s been eye opening in a lot of ways, just how well the basketball community is integrated and connected. One thing that has stood out to me through all this is that if you’re a good player you will get your chance and your opportunities. If you take advantage, you get more, and it keeps developing.

“A lot of this, I haven’t seen it coming, but it’s opened my eyes to what’s possible. It’s not impossible to be a good player in the NBL, it’s not impossible to make the NBA, it’s made things a lot more tangible.

“Nobody really knew me, I knew I could play, I know I’m 6’6″, I can play defence, I’m athletic, so for me it’s just staying healthy and whatever opportunity comes in front of me I’m going to take it with both hands. It was my first ever NBA experience, working with an NBA ball, being around NBA executives but no pressure at all. I came in with the mindset of just appreciating the opportunity and just getting to know as many people as I can.”

With the NBA Draft just days away, Kuol has been mixing it up in scrimmages with prospects expected to be drafted in the first round on Friday, with eagle eyed coaches’ and scouts watching his every move.

“It’s only been Chicago and Cleveland. If I do make Summer League it will probably be with one of them, but we’ll see.”

“It’s so cool, I feel like one of the things that stood out is that everybody is there. You’ve got the head coach walking around, observing, you’ve got the staff. You run into people, and they’ve been there for 25 years and I’m like ‘wow’.

“That’s what makes things more tangible. I thought it was going to be an exclusive experience with just some of the staff, but you’ve got everybody there. You’re actually here in the NBA and you’re working out in front of NBA coaches and executives. I thought it would be low key, but it was such a genuine experience having casual conversations with these coaches and staff members.”

While the Summer League invite hangs in the balance, Kuol’s globetrotting is set to continue. South Sudan will continue their FIBA World Cup qualification journey with matchups against Rwanda, Tunisia and Cameroon on three consecutive days tipping off on July 1.

“I think I took full advantage of the workouts, I think they got to know me, saw my character, saw how I played, the level of intensity and leadership skills, so if teams take the chance and want to bring me in, it’s a possibility but I’m not really thinking about it. I got everything I wanted out of it and if they bring me in, it would be a bonus.

“My focus right now is going to South Sudan, getting over there, taking full advantage of that, getting to meet everyone over there and just enjoying the experience. I don’t know what will come of this, but I’ve just enjoyed every minute of it.

“I haven’t been back in Africa in like 15 years so it’s a huge opportunity to be back and to do it playing basketball, represent your country and do it with your brothers from all over the world, I’m excited for that. You want to win games, you want to make the squad, but I’m just trying to get selected and then after that compete. I’m more excited about just being home and the experience.”

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