The accolades are flowing for Cedric Jackson, the New Zealand Breakers point guard regarded as the best player in the NBL.
The 26-year-old with 12 games in short stints at three American NBA clubs has been on the move for much of his life, so a second season in Auckland almost rates as settling down.
Jackson is building on his outstanding 2011 Australian NBL season, and went on a personal records smashing spree against the Melbourne Tigers in the last round while earning teammates' praise for still honouring the team ethos.
The Weekend Herald discovered a humble character who has been on court with the world's best basketballers, looks up to Breakers colleagues, and dreams of returning to the big time in America.
You were born in a small New Mexico desert town ...
My dad was in the Air Force. We moved around a lot of bases - New Mexico, Florida, North Carolina, Washington, New Jersey, Maryland - until I was about 16, 17. That can be tough, leaving good friends and always making new ones.
My dad played at Georgetown back in the days of Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning but he got a bad knee injury. I always watched my dad and brother ... they didn't want me to play because I was so small but my skill level was so advanced I kept up.
Was basketball always your priority?
It was the sport my parents pushed me towards. I tried others - soccer, running back in American football, pitcher in baseball and track.
Any advice for youngsters?
Play with older guys who won't take it easy on you then go back to your own age group.
Who is the best player you've shared a court with?
LeBron James at the Cavs (Cleveland). He's the best - just give him the ball and watch him go to work. There was also Shaq O'Neal - I try to get a lot of wisdom from those guys and see how they go about business.
Do you dream of an NBA return?
Yeah - that's definitely what I work hard for. It's all about the right timing, injuries play a part, your agent ...
Winning the college league championship at Cleveland State University.
I go to church ... I play drums and sing in a band we have called Brothers In One. We were all in the Air Force and got spread out but some of us landed in Maryland together.
How do you rate the NBL standards?
There is a lot more athleticism at home but this league is still very talented. It took a while to get going and see how people play here. There are some differences - if I score, catch the ball and throw it to the ref that's fine at home, but here it is a technical foul. There was a lot to learn.
What is the toughest part of the NBL?
Travel. It's seven hours to Perth and you have to learn how to take care of your body on the flight. It's also a mindset thing. In the NBA they have charter flights, food that you could serve in a top restaurant, seats like La-Z-Boy chairs. Our travel lets you get to know the guys a bit more ... you can find good things in any situation.
Had you heard of New Zealand before 2011?
I had to look it up on the map and my agent told me it was a 23, 24-hour flight. I thought 'oh my gosh'. I had a good conversation with (Breakers coach) Andrej Lemanis and felt very comfortable with what he was telling me.
Who are the driving forces in the Breakers squad?
CJ Bruton, Dillon Boucher, Mika Vukona. They have been here the longest so have had the rocky roads and know how to deal with those things. It is good to have those guys to lean on. CJ knows my dream, to return to the NBA, and gives me things to work on.
What is the Breakers' winning secret?
Good things happen to good people. The coaching staff do a very good job of scouting players who fit in with our style and mesh in well. There is a dedication to success.By Chris Rattue Email Chris