Ex-Chicago Bulls guard Denzel Valentine admits the standard of the NBL has surprised him since arriving at the Sydney Kings, declaring the league appears "not that different" from the NBA.
New coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah signed Valentine as the back-to-back champions' third and final import ahead of the new season that tips off in a month.
The 29-year-old is likely to partner former NBL MVP and fellow American Jaylen Adams in a new-look Sydney back-court following the departures of Dejan Vasiljevic and Derrick Walton.
Valentine's resume boasts a stellar college career with Michigan State, selection with the 14th pick of the 2016 NBA draft and 260 games in that league.
Injuries hampered the back end of Valentine's five-year stint with Chicago, forcing him out of the entire 2018/19 season.
He has been searching for a path back to the NBA since the completion of a 10-day contract with the Utah Jazz in the 2021/22 season.
In recent years the likes of Xavier Cooks, Josh Giddey, LaMelo Ball, Jack White and Jock Landale have all turned impressive NBL campaigns into NBA contracts. Valentine is intent on following suit.
"It's a short season so from here to early March, and then I plan on going back to the NBA," he said.
"Come here, win a championship, get in a winning organisation.
"It's a great opportunity to come here, get my feet wet, get back rolling and try to win a championship and then try to get back to the NBA."
Prior to signing on with the Kings, most of what Valentine knew of the NBL came through fellow Americans who had spent time as imports in the league.
He reached out to ex-Kings Walton, RJ Hunter, Justin Simon and Ian Clark as he weighed up making the move to Australia.
"They all talk highly of this league," Valentine said.
But the positive reviews did not prepare Valentine for what awaited him in Sydney, least of all his new teammate Adams.
"(Adams) surprised me, I ain't going to lie," Valentine said.
"I knew he was good but I was like, the first time we played off, I was like wow, this kid is really good.
"He can pass, he can score, his pace is second to none. He has a high ceiling so I'm excited to play off him.
"Honestly, the players here are more skilled than I thought.
"In the league (NBA), guys are so athletic and the size is obviously different. But here, guys are still skilled, guys are still athletic and strong.
"It's not that much of a difference.
"We've got some high expectations to live up to with them winning back-to-back championships and going for this three-peat. I'm excited for it."