IT'S his first contract abroad but Illawarra import Antonius Cleveland is not a complete stranger to the NBL.
In a memorable cameo, the 27-year-old kitted up for Melbourne United in the Aussie franchise's exhibition hit-out against Oklahoma City in the US in late 2017.
Fans will remember United star Chris Goulding suffered an untimely bout of appendicitis on the eve of the trip, but perhaps not the kid just out of college who was a late replacement.
Cleveland who came in at the 11th hour, with the experience planting the seed for his NBL shift five years on.
"I played the one game with Melbourne coming out of college," Cleveland said.
"Chris Goulding's appendix ruptured two days before the game so they needed a body and I went and played for them. That's when I learned they spoke English in Australia. Before that I didn't know.
"I played with Casper Ware, Josh Boone, Casey Prather. I think I got four points and played 10 minutes, but I trained with Melbourne for two days and everyone was cool and they were telling me how awesome Australia was.
"After that it was in the back of my head that, if I had to leave, Australia was one of the first places I wanted to go."
United were packed with NBL stars, but it was not the most stellar line-up Cleveland was sharing time on the floor with.
After going undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft, the Southeast Missouri State alum was picked up by Portland for the NBA Summer League and subsequently signed a training camp deal with Golden State.
It put him in the gym with the then all-conquering Warriors team featuring the likes of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
"Coming out of college I played with the Warriors and I'm in the gym with Steph, Thompson, Kevin Durant," Cleveland said.
"What a lot of people don't know, is those guys are great guys as well, off the court they're great people.
"A month before that I was living in my dorm room not having money to eat. Then I was in the gym with them. It was surreal."
He signed a two-way deal with Dallas in November that year and played 28 NBA games over two stints with Mavs and another with Atlanta.
Short-term deals have kept him on the fringe of the NBA but, at 27, he felt the time was right to take his career outside of the US for the first time.
"I was getting these NBA two-way contracts," he said.
"In my first year I was in the NBA in and out, my second year I did the G-League, third year I was back in the NBA in and out.
"If I'd gone maybe two years without [an NBA deal] I would've left but, since I was getting NBA deals, I wanted to be patient with it.
"Honestly, I didn't want to play G-League last year. My agent thought I should I give it one more chance but I was ready to leave and play abroad.
"I just knew, if I wanted to go anywhere [overseas] for the first time, why not go to a great league like this."
It certainly doesn't spell the end to his NBA ambitions.
Along with rookies like LaMelo Ball and Josh Giddey, the NBL's also been a springboard for more seasoned players like James Ennis, Torrey Craig and, most recently, Jae'Sean Tate.
"I know there's a lot of eyes on this league," Cleveland said.
"You've got EuroLeague and the NBL is right there as far as being competitive and NBA scouts being familiar with it.
"NBL players come into the NBA every year so all that went into my decision as well."
The Brian Goorjian factor was also no small thing, with a call from the Tokyo Olympics village part of the sell.
"When he called me he was in Tokyo coaching at the Olympics," Cleveland said.
"They're not getting just anyone to coach at the Olympics so I thought 'this guy must be the real deal'.
"Learning more and more I found out how great a coach he was. I saw how the team did last year so I figured I could probably get in here and help right away.
"It's been a minute since I won a championship and I would love to get my first pro championship here my first time overseas."
A true two-way force, Cleveland will be be tasked with filling some of the defensive void left by the departed Justin Simon, but the Memphis native has a firm promise for the Hawks faithful - you will be entertained.
"I take pride in my defence and I feel I can score as well and if you come to game I want to wow you at least one time," he said.
"It's how I've always been. In college I'd get the fans up during the timeouts and I like interacting with them because, without them, this game sucks.
"We saw through COVID, without the fans, this game's not the same. I want to give them their money's worth."