Ryan Broekhoff's long road from Frankston to the bright lights of Dallas

As a junior player, Ryan Broekhoff was so quiet his coach gave him one of the better reverse nicknames you can imagine: Rowdy.

But if the kid from Frankston, Victoria, didn't make much noise then, he's certainly making up for it on the court now.

In early July, the 6'7" [201-centimetre] sharpshooter signed a two-year, $2.4 million USD ($3.2 million AUD) deal with the Dallas Mavericks, with the first year fully guaranteed.

It's the culmination of an unlikely journey from the hardscrabble of his home town, one that the 27-year-old can still scarcely believe himself.

"I'm a Dallas Maverick. It's still surreal to say," Broekhoff tells ESPN. "It's super weird to say it. It still hasn't sunk in. I think once the paperwork is all done and I'm in Dallas it will start to feel real. But right now it's more just like 'I'm dreaming' or 'this is some kind of elaborate hoax that's been pulled on me.'

"It's an amazing feeling to finally have something I've worked so long for and wanted since as long as I can remember."

Amid the frenzy of the early free agent signings at the beginning of July, Broekhoff had been working out for seven NBA teams, doing interviews and showing what he was capable of in person, rather than letting teams rely on game film.

But when the call from his agent Andy Shiffman came through that the Mavericks wanted him, Broekhoff's first reaction was one of shock.

"So, uh, you're going to be a Dallas Maverick," Shiffman said.

"... what?"

"Dallas has put an offer forward for two years. You're an NBA player now. Do you still want to do it?"


The shock was as much the fact that he hadn't worked out for Dallas, so the offer was a little out of left field, but Broekhoff certainly wasn't about to turn it down.

While the Mavericks hadn't worked him out in person, director of player personnel Tony Ronzone said Dallas had its eyes on Broekhoff since the Australian sharpshooter attended their minicamp two years ago. From there, the Mavericks had followed Broekhoff's progress closely, impressed with his improvement at both ends of the floor over the past year.

"Our coaches liked him as we followed his progress in Russia overseas this last year," Ronzone tells ESPN. "So we're fans of his game. We've been watching him live the last few years and I'm a huge fan of Aussie players with their toughness and team play."

Broekhoff shares the same management agency as Utah Jazz swingman and fellow countryman Joe Ingles, who has already given the Mavericks rookie some invaluable pointers about how to maximise his NBA experience.

"Joe sent me a message saying 'the real work begins now'," Broekhoff says. "He gave me advice on the little things to do each day, be the first in and last out of practice each day, show how professional you are, how much you want this and how hard you work, and if you do all that, you'll be fine."

So what can the Mavericks and head coach Rick Carlisle expect from Broekhoff? A little bit of everything really.

Having thrived in Europe, and been a part of the Boomers' 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games squads, Broekhoff says he'll not only bring his on-court three-and-D skills but also some leadership to a young squad that has plenty of potential.

And Broekhoff is already picturing how he can help the Mavs make the most of teen sensation Luka Doncic, who Dallas snaffled in a draft-day trade with the Atlanta Hawks.

"'Doncic assists Broekhoff made 3-pointer' already has a nice ring to it!" Broekhoff laughs. "Watching the EuroLeague, what he's done as an 18, 19-year-old kid in the second-toughest league in the world, to be MVP of everything, win everything, he's got the full package. He's got the size, he's got the skill, limitless potential going forward. Hopefully we'll be able to jell really quickly and hopefully I'm on the receiving end of a few laser passes in the corner for open threes."

Ronzone believes Broekhoff can expect an extended stay in the NBA if he can continue to stretch opposition defences with his three-point marksmanship at the offensive end and show his versatility at the other end of the court.

"The most important thing is we're looking at him to do what he does best, which is shoot the ball and make shots from the NBA line -- if he makes shots he will have a long NBA career," Ronzone says. "With spreading and spacing and shooting being a huge part of our game, he's now at the level to show us that he can guard other players and most importantly, for him to make NBA 3-balls. If he does this with open looks he's a keeper -- a tough kid who competes, and we like players who spend time overseas and earn their stripes. It's not easy living and playing in Russia."

Basketball was very much a family sport for the Broekhoffs. Both parents and his uncle played for his hometown team, his dad Wim playing one season in the early years of the National Basketball League.

Even as a young kid, with his brother Daniel and twin sisters Melissa and Carlee "running around like lunatics" at the local courts, Broekhoff would be sitting and watching next to mum Jo. He couldn't wait until half-time of Frankston games so he could run out there and try to shoot.

Indeed, most of his closest friendships were made while playing basketball there. Despite its working class reputation, Frankston proved to have a great basketball community for Broekhoff to grow up around.

One of his closest mates, Mike McInnes, remembers a young Broekhoff complaining of a sore arm but playing anyway after his mum told him to stay on the court. Later, it would be revealed he played with a broken bone in his wrist.

Without belabouring what can be a tired trope of Australian sport, it's that kind of toughness that has helped define Broekhoff. His baby-faced countenance belies a rugged mindset that has been as much a factor in his basketball journey as his shooting ability.

From Frankston to the Australian Institute of Sport and then on to Valparaiso University in Indiana, Broekhoff is acutely aware of just how hard he was pushed by the fierce day-to-day competition of his own teammates.

"Going to the AIS, competing against the best kids in Australia, day-in, day-out, just building on everything you've already worked on, that brings out the best in everyone," Broekhoff says. "You'd always be training with someone different. We were all on the same page, pushing each other every day. Myself, Delly (Matthew Dellavedova), Brock Motum, we all pushed each other.

"Every player who went through that period, either went to college, or played in the NBL or overseas, so it was a pretty good group to surround yourself to keep improving."

It's a tough path for Australians to make the NBA, the tyranny of distance and a population base smaller than that of Texas means the road is longer and harder, something Broekhoff knows all too well.

After an impressive four-year college career that included the 2012 Horizon League Player of the Year Award and an honourable mention All-America nod, not a single NBA offer was forthcoming for Broekhoff after he went undrafted at the 2013 Draft.

So he packed his bags for Europe, signing on for two years in Turkey with Besiktas and then subsequently a three-year deal with PBC Lokomotiv in Russia's VTB United League. In his final season with the Russian outfit, Broekhoff shot 50.6 percent from 3-point range while averaging 12.3 points and 5.5 boards per game in the EuroCup competition.

"You have to work for it. Nothing is given to you for free and I think that's the way Australian players play the game," Broekhoff says. "We play tough, we work hard, and we do all the right things to make ourselves and our teammates the best we can be. Having that bond, that mateship and camaraderie, is as big a part as skills that makes a team successful."

After establishing his bonafides in Europe, Broekhoff had been hopeful of securing an NBA roster spot even before Boomers teammate Dellavedova pushed for his Bucks front office to nab his old AIS alum.

It seems like it's come together quickly for the kid from Frankston but for Broekhoff, his journey to the NBA is one that has been a long time coming.

Life as a professional basketball player can be a lonely existence. For all the glitz and glamour, it can be a life of living out of a suitcase, innumerable hotels, airports, and locker rooms, all of it time away from family and friends.

For Broekhoff that bond with those closest to him makes the upcoming season in Dallas especially gratifying.

"I'm really looking forward to Opening Night but more for my friends and family. People already lining up to visit, that sort of thing is amazing to me and for them to be excited and proud is humbling for me," Broekhoff says.

"I'm ready to get to Dallas and start working. Putting that Mavericks jersey on for the first time will be a moment I'll truly cherish and remember forever. I'm just super excited and still pinching myself that it's all going to come true."