Majok Majok - Courtesy Melbourne United
Majok Majok has fast become one of the most important players for the currently undefeated Melbourne United. The 6'10 big man is a rebounding machine, but you'd be a fool to think that is what his game is limited to.
The 6'10" center was born in South Sudan, moved to Perth as a child, attended college in the States, played pro-ball in Slovenia last season, and now finds himself in Melbourne. It has been a whirlwind ride for Majok to get to where he is today. At just 22 years of age, his basketball career is just beginning.
Majok's college career at Ball State provided plenty of highlights, proving to be more than just a rebounder, as he recorded double-double after double-double.
This game-winning dunk as time expired against Norfolk State in 2013 showcased his cool and calm demeanor under pressure.
Majok signed his first professional contract to play for Helios Domzale in Slovenia for the 2014/15 season. While he sometimes found it hard to navigate away from foul trouble, he became a solid contributor, averaging a healthy 8.4 points and 7.4 rebounds in 23 minutes a game during the regular season.
In Slovenia, Majok became somewhat of an alley-oop specialist for Helios Domzale. At every opportunity his teammates would look for him and Majok usually didn't disappoint.
Coming out of college, Majok needed to improve his free-throw shooting, after averaging just 55% from the line in his two seasons. While improving to 66% from the line with Helios Domzale was an encouraging sign, this hasn't yet translated over to the NBL, where he is averaging just 56% thus far.
Majok has been a force on the boards and has shown that he can score in the post too. His first bucket in the NBL, and United's first score of the season, was the result of some great footwork and confidence in the paint.
This confidence has only grown as the season has gone on, highlighted by his game against the Perth Wildcats last week.
With his first bucket against the Perth Wildcats he sent a message; Majok is not afraid of anyone, including Australian Boomer and Perth Wildcats superstar Nate Jawai.
The Majok and Jawai battle was great to watch all night, and to say Majok held his own would be an understatement.
After Stephen Holt put United up by 1 point with 7 seconds remaining, it was Majok who saved the day. He again proved to be fearless as he went straight up and blocked Jermaine Beal's potential game-winning lay-up.
Majok's willingness to score in the paint is making Melbourne's offence even more potent. With starters Chris Goulding, Stephen Holt, Todd Blanchfield and Daniel Kickert all able to score in close and from deep, Majok's presence inside makes their offence even more unpredictable. Leave anyone open, and it's lights out.
Majok is anchoring United's defense and has recorded 10 or more rebounds in all bar one game, in which he grabbed eight. Majok has great body control and times his leap to perfection on more occasions than not.
Seven games into his NBL career, the decision to return to Australia looks to be the right one. Majok has already become a fan favourite, and those within the organisation love him too.
Coach Dean Demopoulos had kind words to say about the rising star after his game-saving block against the Wildcats.
Per The Age's Roy Ward:
"This guy here, he is one of most intelligent young players I've coached in 35 years," Demopoulos said. "He's not loud, not boisterous - everything he says means something."
"He's got a great future," Demopoulos said. "I think Majok can play at any level he wants to play in as long as he stays with the script and stays working at what he's great at and gets greater at it."
For Majok, the sky is the limit and with the team around him, he can concentrate on utilising his strengths to overpower his opponents on both ends of the court.
Majok has shown he has a bag of tricks, now the challenge is to keep the magic going.