'Learn the realities of playing in a men's league' - check.
It didn't take Hawks star AJ Johnson long to tick the first box on his Next Stars journey. The face mask he's donning for the early part of the Hawks campaign - courtesy of a stray elbow from seven-foot teammate Sam Froling - says it all.
For his part, the 18-year-old welcomes it, not that he came to Australia hoping to need surgery on a busted nose less than a fortnight into his stint. In a roundabout way, though, it is kind of what he came here for.
"I've never broken anything on my body, so it was kind of crazy I first got here and then break my nose but that's the physicality," Johnson said.
"Once that happened I was like 'yeah, this is definitely different'. I knew since the first practice this is already a different type of physicality coming from high school. They're grown men so it's all going to get me better.
"I'm already known as not so strong guy, kind of skinny. That's [seen as] one of my weaknesses, so now I'm playing in one of the most physical leagues in the world, I'm going to show everyone that I can take the physicality of any league."
It played a part in his decision to take the pro route after initially committing to the Texas Longhorns - a nursery boasting NBA megastar Kevin Durant as its most notable alum.
While the Next Stars program had evolved into a more draft-and-stash formula in recent seasons, Johnson's arrival is more in the mould of former Hawk LaMelo Ball and Aussie gun Josh Giddey, who were drafted third and sixth respectively after entering the NBL straight out of high school.
Their immediate transition to NBA stardom convinced Johnson and his team that the NBL was the best path for him, with the journey officially tipping off against two-time reigning champs Sydney in Wollongong on Saturday.
"At first I pretty much knew where I was going to go, but then I talked it over with my agents and my brothers and we just thought that the best decision for me was to take the pro route," Johnson said.
"I love Texas, the coach and everything, but I just felt this pro route was going to be better for my future and being a better NBA player. That is my goal, that's my dream to get to, and being in a professional league will help me be better for that."
There was no more important sounding board than Houston Rockets star Jalen Green, his friend as close as a brother, who also eschewed the college route at a time he was the most in demand teenager in the country.
Green instead went via the G League before being drafted No. 2 by the Rockets in 2021, with his insights into that process key in Johnson's career decision.
"[He's] like my brother," Johnson said.
"He's not my blood brother, but I've known him since nine years old and blood couldn't make us any closer. He was definitely a big part of this decision.
"He chose to go the pro route out of high school and he just said taking the pro route earlier will teach me to become a professional earlier than some of the kids that are going to college.
"When you come for pro stuff, you've got to do the pro things that they do. It helps you grow up. He's been a bigger part of my whole journey, so of course he was definitely a big part of my [NBL] decision."
The teen prodigy's arrival is accompanied by mountains of hype, with skipper Tyler Harvey not hesitating to describe the 6 ft 5 phenom as "the most athletic player I've ever seen."
It's something both he and coach Jacob Jackomas will need to balance with team priorities, a task that noticeably took a back seat on Ball's arrival in Wollongong in 2019.
After modest returns over his first two Blitz outings, Johnson's seven points and two assists at 3-6 from the field against Cairns hinted at his ability to shift the tempo, and push the pace in transition.
It may have had something to do with losing the mask he wore for the opening two hit-outs but, whatever his role, there'll be keen eyes analysing his every move.
It's something the club is awake to, with general manager Mat Campbell cautioning against heaping expectation on the highly touted teen.
"You're going to have keyboard warriors out there wanting AJ to start and play 35 minutes a game but the reality is he's got to go through the process of understanding how to be a pro," Campbell said.
"You've got an 18 year old kid playing in a professional league that's getting better, and the reality is he's also missed four weeks of contact training right before the start of the season.
"Missing four weeks, rolling into the Blitz with a mask on, we saw how that affected things. He's missed four weeks preparation and he's coming up against Matthew Dellavedova, one of the best defenders in the world, you've got Aaron Baynes setting screens on you and Mitch Norton guarding you.
"That's the type of thing these Next Stars are walking into. He's an unbelievable talent with individual skill level that's through the roof, but he's had a broken nose and missed a big chunk of the preseason.
"I expect him to be flourishing in the first part of the season, but I really see him flourishing towards sort of the middle and back end of the year."
It's a juggling act for any club given the Next Stars program has hype at its core, with Johnson's decision to head to Australia announced on ESPN in the US by the sport's preeminent news-breaker Adrian Wojnarowski.
Having experienced it before, Campbell's confident the club has built the nous to navigate all that comes with it.
"The biggest thing from our point of view, and our experience with LaMelo, is it's about protecting the Next Star, making sure they maintain their confidence and giving them the opportunity to flourish in our environment," Campbell said.
"I'd say 90 per cent of that is off the court or away from the games. It's the practice, it's the living [away from home], it's the travel on the road. It's that experience of being part of a team that gives them that grounding that makes them able to get to a different level.
"It's got to naturally happen, it's not something that can be forced. Like every player in our team, AJ's got to earn his stripes through practice and through what he does on the floor.
"That's the kind of thing that the Next Stars program provides for them.
While he hasn't specifically addressed it with coach Jacob Jackomas, Johnson says he's not bothered by the attention.
"I definitely embrace [the hype] for sure," Johnson said.
"I haven't really spoken to [Jackomas] about it personally. We've talked it over a little bit, but I just know that, whatever role that I'm in, I'm going to make an impact regardless.
"I'm on the team to make an impact so I definitely want to just make my presence felt always, no matter what position I'm in. f I'm starting or on the bench, whatever it is, I just want to try to make an impact and help the team win.
"Being in the adult league, there's a lot of growing up you've got to do and I'm definitely embracing all of it."
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