There are unexpected bonuses to having a child rising through the ranks of basketball and for Cairns Taipans coach Mike Kelly, it means he's had his eyes on emerging superstar Mojave King for a long time and now he can't wait to coach him in the NBL at the Snakes.

Written for by Chris Pike

There are unexpected bonuses to having a child rising through the ranks of basketball and for Cairns Taipans coach Mike Kelly, he's had his eyes on emerging superstar Mojave King for a long time and now he can't wait to coach him in the NBL at the Snakes.

Kelly first caught a glimpse of King while in Brisbane with his own teenage son while at the Queensland state championships some five years ago. Immediately he knew he was watching something special and his development has only continued from there.

King is now seen as a sure-fire NBA prospect of the future having joined the NBA Global Academy at Basketball Australia's Centre of Excellence as of January this year.

He's already offered a glimpse what he can do at senior level too with 24 points in 18 minutes playing for the Centre of Excellence in the NBL1 competition last year.

Now with the versatile and exciting guard to become eligible for the 2021 NBA Draft, he fits the bill perfectly for the NBL Next Stars program, and he has signed up with the Taipans for the 2020/21 season and potentially beyond should he not find himself a roster spot in the NBA.

It was a significant boost to the Taipans fresh off their stunning 2019/20 NBL season which ended with a Game 3 semi-final defeat to the Perth Wildcats.

Since that Game 3 defeat, there has been significant anticipation surrounding the Taipans about their squad for next season and especially the potential re-signing of Scott Machado and Cam Oliver, but securing the signature of King is every bit as meaningful.

Understandably Kelly's focus has been on coaching his group during #NBL20 and what a remarkable job he did of that ending up named NBL Coach of the Year.

But the Taipans have put in a tremendous amount of work on securing the signature of King and Kelly is delighted to have him come to the Far North as part of the Next Stars program.

"I was mostly concerned with our guys during the season but we have been watching Australian basketball as we do every day both as us coaches and the front office," Kelly said.

"So we know most of the bright young kids coming up and Mojave even played against my son five years ago down at the Queensland state championships in Brisbane.

"I've seen him since he was a young guy so we already knew him and kept an eye on him. Then this opportunity came up and we jumped on it."

While Kelly has no doubt that King will bring plenty to the Taipans on the court next season, he's also confident the Snakes in turn can help continue his development and offer him the final piece of his growth to end up in the NBA whether it's in one, two or three years.

"He brings a lot of youth first of all but also athleticism, energy and he shoots the ball well. He has a pretty good feel for the game through passing the ball. We'll see what he brings from there," he said.

"He brings that stuff for us and for him, we bring kind of the experience and mentoring and teaching that I think he's going to need to continue on to the next level.

"I don’t know what his future is but if he got drafted and was ready to go next year, then we'd love for him to be in the NBA next year."

As for the qualities that King brings that should have everyone looking ahead to next NBL season for what he'll provide the Taipans, Kelly sees him as a perfect fit to what they currently have.

"Mojave is a bright, young player whose got a bright future in front of him. He's just really a talented and skilled player who's also very athletic. He's got skills to work with now and a lot of growth for the future," Kelly said.

"He's a perimeter player so whether he's a two, three or moves over to the one some and plays some point guard, he has shown the ability to be able to do all those things.

"With our team that has been kind interchangeable on the perimeter whether it's Kouat Noi, DJ Newbill, Mirko Djeric, I think he fits in with those guys as an athletic, mobile guy who can defend.

"That's what we are aiming for him to do but we'll see how it all fits when we have the whole group together."

The Next Stars program in the NBL really took over this past season with the presence of LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton, who are now looking likely to be Top 5 NBA draft picks this year.

Kelly is a big fan of what the NBL has done with the program to help grow their reputation and profile in the basketball world, and especially for the Taipans to now have jumped on board with it.

"I think the Next Stars program has been phenomenal for the league," Kelly said.

"The marketing that the league has done around it to put the NBL in the forefront of the world's eyes and in the basketball world, has been huge.

"So I know that's a great thing and for me I like that he is a good, athletic skilled basketball player that I think can grow over his time here. That's what I'm most excited about."

Attention for the Snakes now turns to who can return from the roster they had in #NBL20 that was so exciting. But Kelly is just happy for King to be the first domino to fall into place with more news on the horizon.

"We hope that we have a number of the guys back from this season and I think Mojave being so versatile can fit with a lot of different kind of roster builds. Any time you can get a talented young Australian like Mo, then I think you jump on it and that's what we've done," Kelly said.

"I think it's a great time to be a Taipans fan right now. We were good this season with room to grow.

"There's no other news right now and we are really just finishing up our exit meetings with the players and staff, and kind of reviewing how this season was and how it finished, and how we can be better for next season.

"We are kind of in that mode as the front office continues to talk to people. Hopefully there'll be some more news soon."

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