Written for nbl.com.au by Liam Santamaria
NBA Draftee Devon Hall’s decision to join the Cairns Taipans for the 2018-19 season further strengthens the NBL’s reputation as a breeding ground for NBA talent.
A product of the University of Virginia, Hall was selected by the Oklahoma City Thunder with their top pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, 53rd overall.
The 23-year-old then played with the Thunder at last month’s NBA Summer League, where his elite two-way game caught the eye of new Taipans head coach Mike Kelly.
Now, as he dips his toes into professional waters for the very first time, Hall has decided a stint in the NBL will help him take the next step in his promising career.
“I’m very, very excited to be coming to Australia,” Hall told NBL Media.
“The league looks real competitive and I think this will be a good experience for me professionally and personally.”
Hall’s signing completes the Taipans’ roster for NBL19 with the 6-foot-6 swingman joining fellow imports Melo Trimble and DJ Newbill on the club’s new-look squad.
His decision to join the Snakes almost immediately after getting drafted signals a major vote in confidence in the NBL and, more specifically, Kelly and the Taipans.
“I’ve connected with Coach Kelly and I like the team he’s put together,” Hall said.
“We’re definitely going to have some fun this season.”
— NBL (@NBL) August 12, 2018
Hall’s signing comes on the back of Sydney’s announcement that NBA prospect Brian Bowen will bring his talents to the NBL this season as the league’s first ‘Next Stars’ signing.
It also follows the recent news that former Taipans import Torrey Craig has signed a multi-year deal with the Denver Nuggets and former Adelaide star Mitch Creek has signed an ‘Exhibit 10’ deal with the Brooklyn Nets.
Another former Taipan, Travis Trice, will soon be heading to training camp with the Milwaukee Bucks while yet another former Snake, Scottie Wilbekin, recently signed a multi-million dollar deal with EuroLeague team Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“I think the NBL has shown that it is a great place for players, both local and imports, to improve their game and take it to a higher level,” Kelly told NBL Media.
“We have a number of guys on our team who have that as their goal. I think Devon as well as the other two imports, DJ (Newbill) and Melo (Trimble), fit into that category.
“I am happy to help them achieve their goals of getting to the highest level possible.”
Hall demonstrated an impressive commitment to getting better throughout his time at Virginia.
After redshirting as a freshman, the left-hander improved his shooting numbers each year as a Cavalier, finishing his senior season shooting 45 percent from the field, 43 percent from three and 89 percent from the foul line.
“He is a worker,” Kelly said.
“From everyone I have spoken to about the work ethic he had at Virginia, he did the extras before and after training.
“I love that about him already, just knowing that he continually wants to get better. That is one of the things we are trying to do here at Cairns is just get better every day.”
Kelly and his staff will now work closely with Hall over the next six months as he refines his game at the pro level.
His signing represents the first time the Taipans have inked a player straight out of the NBA Draft.
Hall will join James Ennis (Perth), Jordan McRae (Melbourne), DeAndre Daniels (Perth) and Marcus Thornton (Sydney Kings) as Americans to have played in the NBL immediately after being drafted.
Of course, those players enjoyed varying levels of success during their time in Australia which is why Kelly’s not getting carried away with Hall’s status as a recent draftee.
“When I watch Devon play and watch the way he goes about his basketball, I couldn’t care less if he is a draft pick. I like him as a basketball player,” the first-year head coach said.
“I don’t think his circumstance will have anything to do with his success in the NBL. I think it will be the way he plays the game, the way he defends, the way he asserts himself on offence and shoots the ball and creates for teammates.
“Those are the things that are going to make him successful in the NBL, not anything about his reputation.”
The success of Hall’s time in Australia will also be judged on how much he improves over the course of next season.
Offensively he’ll need to start finishing more consistently through and over traffic and will look to improve his playmaking out of the pick-and-roll. And while Hall was an All-ACC defender as a senior, Kelly believes there is also room for improvement at that end of the floor.
“He has played very well at Virginia but now he will be playing against professionals,” Kelly said.
“I see him continuing in all facets of the game, but finishing through traffic and his individual defence, they will be key aspects for him to continue to improve.”
Developing those areas here in the NBL may well hold the key for Hall to jump from NBA draftee to NBA player.
That work begins soon.