Alex Kirk was supposed to be playing this weekend in the “Super 16” of The Basketball Tournament in Atlanta.
Then the boss came calling.
Kirk, the 26-year-old University of New Mexico and Los Alamos High grad, signed a guaranteed contract with Toyota Alvark Tokyo earlier this summer to return to the team for a second year after helping it win the 2018 Japan B-League championship in May.
Toyota Alvark has asked Kirk not to continue playing in the TBT event after he was an integral part of both of the teams first two wins to advance them to the round of 16.
Kirk stood to pocket a personal six-figure payoff if his team, the Eberlein Drive, wins the $2 million winner-take-all event that is being televised by the ESPN family of networks. But he understands why his bosses decided to shut him down and protect their investment.
“Obviously I wanted to play,” Kirk said. “I wanted to keep going because it is fun. But when the people that are paying your bills for the next 10 months come calling, you don’t really have much of a choice. …
“There’s a lot that could happen that you don’t want to think about. For them, I think it does matter because I’m locked in on a guaranteed contract. It sucks, but now I get to go back to New Mexico this weekend.”
In two wins in the opening two rounds of the TBT, Kirk averaged 18.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and shot 70 percent from the field (14-of-20, including 2-of-2 from 3-point range).
Kirk also played for the Eberlein Drive a year ago, though the team had a different name. It is a roster of coaches and players Kirk has met and made friendships with through his years of playing in the United States and overseas.
“We always want to win the money, but for me it was kind of a time to get out there and play and have some fun with some different guys I’ve met over the years,” said Kirk, who has been living in California training and staying in shape.
Now, instead of playing in Atlanta, Kirk will make an unexpected trip home to Los Alamos this weekend. And, for a change, he may not even be the town’s biggest sports star.
Kirk will be bringing to New Mexico, for her first visit, his girlfriend, Rachael Adams, an Olympic medalist in volleyball who still plays for the United States National Team.
The visit will be a short one, he says, and he will be heading back to Japan soon to start offseason training camp with his team there. Adams also plays professionally around the world (the two met while each were playing their respective sports for professional teams in Instanbul, Turkey).
Kirk said he hopes to get a round of golf in with his dad while back home this weekend.