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FEATURE

Hannahs picks NBL for Doors it Can Open, Aussie Lifestyle

Written for nbl.com.au by Chris Pike

Constant close calls of getting another NBA chance drove Dusty Hannahs to come down under for a fresh start with the Adelaide 36ers of the NBL, but it also led him to the golf course and that has only helped him appreciate that shooting a basketball isn't that hard after all.

Hannahs' dream of playing in the NBA did come true when the Little Rock, Arkansas native spent some time with the Memphis Grizzlies on two separate occasions, and he continued to hold out hope of a longer-term deal.

He was given reason for that hope too with consistently impressive form in the G-League and there were several times that he had agreed to terms to return to the NBA, but then had that ripped away from him.

The last straw came in April of this year when Hannahs was getting ready to leave to join his new team, but then at the last minute the deal was pulled away from him.

That turned out to be a life changing moment for the son of former Major League Baseball pitcher Gerry where his nickname Dusty also came from with his dad a former teammate of Dusty Baker with the LA Dodgers.

The very next day of that deal falling through, Hannahs decided to take up golf as a sport and that love affair has flourished, but he also decided that he wanted to go down a different path in terms of his professional basketball career.

He asked his agent to see if there was a chance of finding a home in the NBL with everything he heard about the league and seeing the success of players getting their chance in the NBA on the back of it, and things all came to fruition at the Adelaide 36ers.

And ironically, the call that the deal was done with Adelaide came when Hannahs was on the golf course.

"It was a league that I was trying to get in to be honest as far as it helping your NBA prospects as well as being great for your game," Hannahs said on Sixers Fix with Scott Ninnis.

"So I was looking to go somewhere that provided a great quality of living and great quality of basketball that also gives you the potential of getting back to the NBA. I think that this league is on top of the list around the world when you put all those factors together. 

"I spoke with my European agent, Eric Fleisher, and he put some feelers out to the teams in this league to see if there was any interest in my name, and he was letting the league know I was interested. It was a blessing to get the call back from Adelaide and get it all done. 

"I was actually on the golf course when I got the call and it was an emotional call because I had been having a tough time from the beginning of the COVID situation with Rudy Gobert up until then. 

"There were three or four times where I was a couple of days away from joining an NBA team and then something with COVID happened or an injury to a big man or something happened, and it just seemed to keep happening. 

"So to get that close when that's the dream of yours and having it ripped from you so many times in one year was just kind of heartbreaking. So for me to be able to land on my feet in a place like this and join the 36ers and play in the NBL with this quality of basketball and the organisation to get back to that professional feeling was a monumental moment for me."

Hannahs love affair with golf has carried on down under too with him already signing up at a club in Adelaide, playing rounds in Tasmania and Perth, and expect his clubs to go with him on any trips that might include an off day.

After all, what taking up golf has taught more than anything is that it only highlights that shooting a basketball isn’t that hard after all.

"I actually feel blessed that after the year I had where I was basically on the way to the NBA and then it fell through again, I had to find something else to do and occupy my mind during the days," Hannahs said.

"I was working hard and sitting around hoping something would eventuate, but you can only workout so many hours in a day and I'm an early riser so by about 1 o'clock every day I was done. I needed to be getting outside and staying active, and doing something productive with my time and that's when I discovered golf. 

"I went and got all my clubs in around mid-April the day after I got that call that the deal fell through, and I've been playing as much I can ever since. I've fallen in love with the sport. I've brought my clubs down here with me and have a membership with a club here. 

"Then I took the clubs down to Tasmania and we played down there, then I played once over in Perth and it's something good to release your mind and have something to get you outside and get a chance to reflect on different things. It also, for me, makes shooting feel easier.

"It's so hard to hit a golf ball so when I get back in the gym it makes me realise that shooting a free-throw is easy, and shooting a three is easier than trying to keep the golf ball on the course."

When Hannahs was looking to make a fresh start with his basketball, his thoughts were on finding an environment that would give him a chance to get back into the NBA, but more importantly he wanted somewhere with high-level basketball and with a good quality of life.

The NBL is a league on the rise, which speaks for itself, but living in Australia at this time of year isn’t too shabby either and Hannahs couldn’t be happier with how it's panned out.

"I just think that it's a really good league. It's one of the best leagues in the world and it's a good place to come if you want to be a chance to get back to the NBA while being a great place to live. It just checks a lot of boxes for me at this point of my life about life and doing what feels right," Hannahs said. 

"After this past G-League season where I had a couple of NBA close calls, when those fell through I was just ready to take a different path other than the NBA G-League which hadn’t quite worked out for me in the past. 

"Whatever happens, happens. If I get back to the NBA then great and that's your dream as a kid. I wanted to actually make it and be there for a significant amount of time, but just to be able to know that I did put on a jersey and live out my dream and have that feeling of being an NBA player is always going to be special to me. 

"Right now, it's about enjoying life and basketball down here and if I can get back to the NBA, that would be great but it's not my focus. My feet are here in the NBL and I want to make the most of things here with the 36ers. I want to enjoy myself, my teammates and the organisation, and to help us win. That's the biggest thing on my checklist right now."

While Hannahs couldn’t be happier to be with Adelaide and playing in the NBL, his opening two matches in losses to Perth and Illawarra didn’t quite go to plan where he shot a combined 7/25.

However, he turned things around impressively in Round 2 being instrumental in wins against the Tasmania JackJumpers and New Zealand Breakers, and his confidence never faltered.

"I'm not going to lose confidence and faith in my game after two games or start to think I'm not fit for this league or anything like that," Hannahs said.

"Those thoughts don't go through my head, but what I do think about is letting my team. I do feel like if I played to my capabilities in the first two games then we could have put ourselves in a position to win, or potentially actually win the games. 

"That was the part that that I cared about, it's never about myself. I wouldn’t care how I shot or whatever in those two games as long as we won the game, my numbers aren’t a problem at all and wouldn’t be talked about. But the fact that we lost both games was what made it not sit right with me. I don’t care what I do as long as my team is winning games."

With Christmas now just over a week away, this is also a big week for Hannahs with his long-term girlfriend Gabrielle arriving in Adelaide from Arkansas.

He had to do some last minute shopping and Christmas house decorating before she arrived on the same day he left for Cairns for this Saturday night's clash with the Taipans, but he feels blessed to welcome her to Adelaide with him.

"I'm really enjoying being here. It's just the people here that I've met, the scenery of the place, the food and it checks all the boxes of being a great place. I'm just really enjoying living here, it has been really peaceful and good so far. Now I'm very excited that my girlfriend is about to get here as well," Hannahs said.

"I'm really grateful that she's able to get out here. It's been a very long process to make it happen and I know a lot of people over the past year and-a-half or whatever it's been haven’t been able to get their wives or girlfriend out here to see them. 

"It's a hard deal and I think everyone is just ready for all this COVID to be over with, but it's out of our control. But now I hope that my family can get out here to visit at some point, that would be amazing but we are just taking it day by day at this point. The fact that she gets to come out here to live with me for the rest of this season is something I'm very grateful for."

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