Why Australia’s NBL is perfect fit for TCU’s Kouat Noi, LaMelo Ball, R.J. Hampton

Former TCU player Kouat Noi called it an easy decision.

He reached a one-year deal with the Cairns Taipans of Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL) last week, giving him a six-figure payday and keeping his eligibility in tact for the 2020 NBA Draft.

“I’m very excited, having a chance to pay in front of family and relatives and all of that,” said Noi, who is originally from Sudan but was raised primarily in Australia.

“This was the best decision for me to play one season over here, experience the professional life and learn from it. It’s kind of like a head start instead of being in college for another year.”

Financial terms were not disclosed, but most players in Noi’s position playing in the NBL make between $100,000 and $150,000 a season. The NBL schedule is also set up to allow players to catch on with European teams after its season ends.

At 6-foot-7, 205 pounds, Noi is a versatile player who has the ability to stretch the floor with his outside shot and length to play inside.

Noi left TCU early with hopes of reaching the NBA, but the NBL is his best path for now. Several former college basketball standouts such as Kansas’ Perry Ellis and Georgia’s Travis Leslie have spent time in the NBL early in their pro careers.

Little Elm’s R.J. Hampton, a top prospect in this year’s basketball class, opted to go the NBL route with the New Zealand Breakers instead of playing major college basketball. So did LaMelo Ball, brother of Lonzo Ball of the NBA and son of the outspoken LaVar Ball.

“This is a great opportunity, great exposure here,” Noi said. “The NBL is very competitive. The talent here is ridiculous.”

Noi finished his college career by averaging 12 points and 4.4 points in 64 games played. He shot 45.6 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from 3-point range.

He worked out for several NBA teams in the pre-draft process after leaving TCU after three seasons, but realized he needed another year to develop. The NBL provided a better opportunity in his mind than the Big 12.

Asked what he needs to improve upon for NBA teams, Noi said: “All the NBA teams know I can play defense, that I’m very versatile and can shoot the ball. I’ve just got to show my game against professional athletes now, work on my body, get stronger, stuff like that.

“I’ll be better prepared next year to come out and dominate and do much better.”

Cairns coach Mike Kelly is excited about adding Noi to his team, saying in a news release: “Patience has certainly paid off for us with Kouat. He had a fantastic season at TCU last year and then tested the NBA Draft process. We watched him with interest while he was at school and have kept in touch when his decision to go pro was made. It’s been a long time in the making, but he’s going to be worth the wait.

“Kouat has the ability to score inside and out - he’s a very good shooter that can also finish at the rim. He’s got the agility and length to defend perimeter players but is also big and strong enough to guard bigger players and be a force on the boards.”

Noi redshirted his true freshman season in 2016-17 at TCU, and then played in all 33 games, including nine starts, in 2017-18 as TCU snapped a 20-year NCAA Tournament drought.

Last season, Noi played in 31 games, including 19 starts, and averaged 13.9 points and 4.9 rebounds.

Noi is now ready for his next chapter.

“The Big 12 was definitely the best conference in the United States, but it was time for me to take that next step,” Noi said.

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