(Photo courtesy Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images)

When I was at Alabama, I didn't think my career would become so complicated. After my junior season at Alabama I was named a first-team All-SEC player, and it seemed like the NBA was a logical next step. I quickly realized, however, that if I was ever going to make it to the league, I was going to have to earn it the hard way.

My numbers took a slight drop my senior year in Tuscaloosa, and I was a second-team All-SEC player in 2012. I didn't get drafted that summer, so I decided to play with the Spurs' D-League affiliate, the Austin Toros. I played well there, but not well enough to get called up to San Antonio.

I played the next summer for the Clippers' Summer League team, but couldn't land a spot with the NBA roster, so that was when I headed off to France.

It was a difficult time for me, because I knew what was being said about me. I think that people thought I was capable of so much more. Plenty of people back in the south knew about the numbers I had put up in college and the accolades I had received, and I was falling short of all the expectations people had for me. Even though I was never a failure in God's eyes, I was feeling like one. To make matters worse, I was an ocean away from my family.

My daughter was born in America and I didn't want her to grow up overseas. Instead, I used my daughter as motivation to play harder and get that NBA job back in America.

When my daughter was born, it was the best feeling in the world. She matured me, and made me look at life differently. I had somebody that was now depending on me, and I knew I had to step up my game on the court if I was going to give her the life that I was capable of providing. At the time I was playing in France's second division and desperately wanted to make the jump up to the league.


(Photo courtesy Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images)

I remember at one point my mom told me “You're not going to be in the NBA until you see yourself in the NBA.” Then she posed the question if I saw myself there, and I gave her my honest feelings at the time... “No, I don't.”

Then one night in a dream, it all clicked. I finally saw all my God-given potential on display on an NBA court, and within a year it would happen. I just didn't know it at the time. The thing was, even if I didn't know whether I would get to the NBA, I knew how I would get there. John 15:4-5 says “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit.”

After that dream where I rediscovered my confidence, my career began to bear fruit. I headed back to Austin to play once again in the D-League, and within a few months there, on January 18 of 2015, I got an offer from the San Antonio Spurs. It was only for 10 days, but I had finally achieved my dream. I had made it to the NBA.

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Thomas Hager