HE may have just touched down on Australian soil, but new Hawks import Billy Preston is no stranger to the NBL - and certainly not to the hype surrounding rookie sensation LaMelo Ball.
A Santa Ana, California native, Preston grew up playing high school ball against Lonzo and LiAngelo Ball and, despite a four-year age gap, also shared the floor with a very young LaMelo.
"I've known Melo since my seventh-eighth grade year, we go way back," Preston said.
"He's younger than me so he's kind of like my little brother. I've been playing with him and his brothers basically our whole life. We played high school together, he went to Chino, I went to Oak Hill, we played each other once two years ago.
"We've got good history but the main reason I'm here is to help the team win. I'm very excited to be here, it's my first time in Australia and what attracted me here was the NBL, the competition and exposure, the players the coaches.
"I want to get myself back in the position I was last year, back to the [NBA], and the NBL, and this team, is the perfect place for it. If we can win games here hopefully it can start the process of me getting back to league."
An All-American and five-star recruit out of Oak Hill Academy, Preston seemed destined for the NBA when he attracted offers from Syracuse, Indiana and USC before committing to the University of Kansas.
A dispute with NCAA prevented him from taking the floor for the Jayhawks, instead pursuing a professional contract in Bosnia ahead of the 2018 NBA Draft.
He's held a two-way contract with Cleveland G League affiliate Canton Charge, as well as the Eyrie Bayhawks and Texas Legends en route to the Hawks as a replacement for the injured Sam Froling.
Still only 22, he feels the NBL can help him walk the same path to the NBA as the likes of James Ennis, Torrey Craig and his former Prime Prep Academy classmate Terrance Ferguson.
"I went to the same high school as T-Ferg so I always kept up with his whole journey through the NBL and his process," Preston said.
"He made his dream come true from the NBL to so, why not? I had other leagues I possibly could've played in and other options but I chose to come here because the NBL was the best situation where I could make that happen.
"Melo has already done it and I've heard plenty of other people talking about coming to play in the NBL since he ended up doing it and making the move.
"My move wasn't [purely] based on that but it's a great opportunity for anyone who wants to come in, get their work done, hopefully win games and make it to the next level. That's the same thing I'm trying to do."
At an imposing 6'10" and 109 kilos, Preston will bring some much-needed athleticism to the Hawks front-court as they look to reboot their 3-10 season.
"[I want to bring] good presence, offensively and defensively," he said.
"I'm a very versatile player, I don't take any plays off on both ends of the floor. Whatever I can do to help the team win games, that's what I'm going to do."
Fellow import Darington Hobson also arrived in Wollongong on Tuesday with the boost a much-needed one after Ball was on Monday ruled out for a month with a foot injury.
Already a projected No. 1 Draft pick, the lay-off has prompted suggestions he may well have played his last game in the NBL, but coach Matt Flinn rubbished suggestions the seriousness of the injury has been overplayed as a "get out" measure.
"I don't know where that comes from but it's false," Flinn said.
"It's legitimate injury and we're going to treat it like we would any other player. The medical staff has advised us that it's a four-week injury so hopefully in four weeks we'll see him back.
"Those of us on the inside see just how hungry he is to play this sport, he's your quintessential gym-rat. He doesn't envisage any day where he's not playing basketball so hopefully he can continue his development and the path he's been on because it's been phenomenal from where he started to where he is now."