The length of Frenchman Alpha Kaba is double-take worthy.
The Hawks’ second-round draft pick has a 7-foot-5 1/4 wingspan. General manager Travis Schlenk noted the dimension Monday at an introductory news conference for the team’s 2017 draft picks. The following exchange between first-round pick John Collins and Schlenk immediately followed:
Collins: “Did you say 7-5?”
Schlenk: “I did say 7-5.”
The Hawks selected Kaba with the 60th and final pick of the draft last week. The 6-10 power forward/center is from Blois, France, but played the past two seasons for the Serbian team Mega Leks in the Adriatic League. Schlenk indicated that Kaba likely will return to Serbia to play another season and continue his development.
However, the 21-year-old Kaba would like to see how he fares in next month’s Las Vegas Summer League before a final decision is made.
“First, my goal is to play summer league,” Kaba said. “I will show up, do my best and evaluate myself as a player. After that I will talk to my agent, the coaches to see what we are going to do. It will be all about the summer league, and we’ll talk after that.”
The Hawks will compete in the summer league, which runs from July 7-17, after a minicamp this week in Atlanta.
Kaba was one of three Mega Leks teammates to be drafted. Vlatko Cancar was selected by the Nuggets with the 49th pick, and Ognjen Jaramaz was selected by the Knicks with the 58th.
Kaba spent two weeks in the United States doing pre-draft workouts, including one in Atlanta for the Hawks. On draft night, he was returning on a New York plane bound for Belgrade, Serbia’s capital city. He and Jaramaz watched the first round on the plane before landing in the early morning. Kaba collected his baggage, took a taxi to his apartment to watch the second round and hoped to hear his name called.
First Cancar and then Jaramaz were selected. Kaba said he was on the phone congratulating his teammates when he remembered a very important detail.
“Then I realized I wasn’t drafted yet,” Kaba said. “I was pretty scared. (No.) 59 still not drafted. Then I saw 60, and I can’t explain the feeling I had. My agent called me, my parents, my sister. I was really happy.”
The fact that Kaba was the last pick of the draft was not a concern. He said he was happy to be picked and is ready to get to work to prove he belongs.
Kaba measured 6-8 barefoot and 6-10 with shoes at the NBA Draft combine in May. That makes his 7-5 wingspan that more impressive. The Hawks like his size, but his athletic ability was also a plus.
“His length, with the 7-5 wingspan, his ability to rebound, his ability to run,” Schlenk said of Kaba’s attributes. “He’s got a really nice touch on his jump shot that we feel we can develop.”
Last season in 25 games of Adriatic League play, Kaba averaged 10.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 24.6 minutes. He had a .507 field-goal percentage. Kaba began his career in France and played for Pau-Orthez in the Pro A league in 2014-15.
Kaba’s uncle was a professional basketball player in France, and Kaba knew from an early age, with his size, that basketball was the sport for him. He said he spent many late nights and early morning as a youngster watching NBA games or checking highlights on the internet.
Maybe one day, those games and highlights will feature Kaba.
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