Former St Dominic’s College student Akoldah “AK” Gak will remain in the NBL next season after signing with the Cairns Taipans on a two-year deal.
The 20-year-old Penrith Basketball junior joins the Taipans from Illawarra, where the Hawks secured the NBA prospect on a three-year contract when he was just 18.
Instead of accepting US college offers during the pandemic, Gak completed his final year of high school online and was rostered as a development player during his first NBL season under Brian Goorjian.
“AK is exciting. He has the ideal blend of strength and athleticism that’ll complement our style of play,” Taipans coach Adam Forde said.
“He has spent time in Illawarra learning from great coaches, while learning what it takes to be a pro. He also won the Players’ Player award there which highlights the type of character and work ethic we will expect from him here.
“AK is not your normal 20-year-old – he’s been in the league for three seasons already. I anticipate his impact for us to be immediate and eye-opening.”
In his past two seasons at the Hawks, Gak has played limited minutes, but still got the call-up from the Chicago Bulls to play at NBA Summer League last year.
“AK has NBA ambitions. During the recruiting process, we spoke with his Summer League coaches and they were honest in their feedback,” Forde said.
“They said he possesses all the physical tools to make the transition, but just needed some more polish to his game.
“Our plan here is to provide him that opportunity in Cairns. He’ll showcase his talents to help us win, and we’ll help him reach his full potential.”
In February, on a visit back home to Penrith, the 210cm forward was mobbed by students, asking for selfies and autographs, when he wandered through the playground during school lunchtime at St Dominic’s.
Gak was in town to check out his very own mural, which the Kingswood-based college had commissioned at the same basketball court he played on growing up.
“That was crazy! It was chaotic,” Gak told the Weekender at the time.
“This is the first time I’ve been back in six years. It just shows, it’s love from the school. I love that I came back and showed my support to them.”
Gak is currently playing with Queensland side the Southern Districts Spartans in the NBL1 North competition. He’ll link up with the Taipans later this year.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.