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Humphries ready to heat up with Hawks after slow burn

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Humphries knocks down two 3-pointers (0:22)

Isaac Humphries shows off the range, knocking down two corner 3-pointers in the Hawks' loss to the Bucks. (0:22)

Atlanta's Kent Bazemore stands at the free-throw line ready to shoot the second of his attempts. To his left is Australian rookie Isaac Humphries, making his first NBA appearance fresh off a season in the G-League with the Erie Bayhawks.

Bazemore's attempt careens off the rim, where Humphries' delicate footwork has him in position to snatch the rebound. He grabs the ball, goes one way, turns back the other, then uses a soft touch to score his first points as an NBA player.

Humphries tells ESPN he was a little fortuitous with the ball, though.

"I kind of didn't even get the rebound, it kind of fell into my hands," he recalls. "I remember just thinking, 'oh, s-t, the ball's right there and I'm right near the bucket' and I kind of just turned around and the defender was there so I made a counter move, then I remember putting it up and that's a shot I know I can make always.

"I just went up with confidence and when I saw it go in I just ran back on defence and halfway though running back I thought 'oh, that's my first NBA bucket. Wow.' I was pretty hyped but you can't show anything at that point."

The NBA dream was not always front-and-center in Humphries' mind. He played two years at Kentucky and as a sophomore with the Wildcats, he averaged 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 8.3 minutes, appearing in 38 games. He declared for the 2017 NBA draft and even though he wasn't selected, it was at a pre-draft workout in Irvine, California one week prior that he started popping up on scout's radars.

Humphries impressed with his soft touch and solid footwork for a 7-footer, with his agent remarking at the time that he felt Humphries' performance had earned him a Summer League contract.

Looking back at that period, Humphries says he still didn't know for certain then that he was NBA quality.

"It's always been in the back of my mind [to play NBA], so that day in front of everyone to perform well obviously lifted my confidence, but the Summer League didn't end up well so that didn't help with my confidence either," he tells ESPN. "It was always in the back of my head, but that day I didn't think 'oh, I'll be in the NBA in a couple years from now.' I didn't think that."

Stints in Sydney with the Kings in the NBL -- where Humphries wound up winning Rookie of the Year -- then in Serbia with FMP Belgrade ensued before he earned a G-League deal with the Erie Bayhawks. Humphries performed well but even then, it wasn't until the G-League Showcase mid-season that he really felt like the NBA was a possibility.

"It was probably halfway through this G-League season - kind of around the Vegas Showcase time," he says. "I had a couple of really good games and then I just stared playing well and playing well, and started getting better and then I got the national team call-up and came back and kept playing well. So it was around that time I thought I could definitely play in the NBA."

On April 1, the Atlanta Hawks announced they had signed Humphries for the remainder of the season. Even Humphries himself said he was surprised by the call-up - he was getting ready to head back to Australia after his G-League season ended.

After receiving the call that he would be an NBA player, Humphries says he initially didn't know how to react.

"I remember just standing up and being in shock and didn't believe what was being said," he said. "Then when it kind of sunk in days later -- I honestly didn't believe it for days -- I was just really excited and really pumped to get over to Atlanta and get to work and start with the team."

In his first three games with the Hawks, Humphries has been thrown straight into the deep end, but he's shown that he can swim - he's averaging just under 13 minutes per game, and averaging 2.3 points and 2 rebounds.

He's looked comfortable right from the start, a factor which he attributes to having spent the season in the G-League with the Hawks' affiliate - the G-League team runs the same plays as its NBA counterpart which has allowed Humphries one less thing to worry about as he gets acclimated to the league.

"I've spoken to a couple of people about this on the team because that is a level of nerves that I didn't have to deal with," he said. "I didn't have to deal with worrying about screwing up the plays or not remembering the plays because I've been running them all year so it was second nature. That was a big a big plus for me."

Atlanta have nothing left to play for this season but lottery position. Until the season ends, though, Humphries is going to make the most of the opportunity given to him. He says the team hasn't placed any expectations on him, but there is one ting he definitely wants to focus on: Rebounds.

"I want to get more rebounds - I want to find a way to contribute more on the boards," he says. "Other than that, just being really solid and doing what the team needs me to do. They're giving me opportunity, it's not like they're putting expectations [on me]. They're not expecting anything so anything I give is [a bonus]."