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A Net’s journey: born in an African refugee camp, now on cusp of a dream

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NBA: Preseason-New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Nuni Omot, the 6’9” stretch 4 out of Baylor, is likely to spend his season playing in Long Island rather than Brooklyn, his latest stop on a lifetime journey that began in the most humble surroundings ... a refugee camp in Kenya 24 years ago.

“I’m not even supposed to be in this situation. I’m not supposed to be here. I don’t even think I’m supposed to be alive,” Omot told Brian Lewis. “But obviously God has done mysterious wonders with my family and just everything that’s happened. And I want to just continue to use this basketball as a pedestal to reach out and help.”

A top-flight college shooter and an athlete, Omot was the last player signed to a camp invitation last month. With an Exhibit 10 contract, he’s likely to be cut in the next week, then given the choice of playing in Long Island (and getting a $50,000 bonus) or head overseas where he could no doubt make more money. But the NBA is his dream and the Nets are the vehicle for that dream.

“Honestly, I couldn’t be at a better place,” Omot said. “They do a great job of developing their players. In Long Island, they’ve had a lot of success with players, and obviously I’m fortunate and blessed to be here. It’s all just so much because of everything I’ve been through, my journey. Just to be able to be here at this level and to play with this organization is just a blessing in itself.”

Omot’s story began 25 years ago when his family escaped a civil war in Ethiopia and arrived in neighboring Kenya.

The plan, as Lewis recounts, had been to get visas to the U.S. and join family in Sioux Falls, S.D. But they ended up spending three long years in the refugee camp, where disease, hunger and poverty made a dangerous mix.

“Tough times there. We don’t have food, no clean water. It was like a desert area,” his mother, Pillow, told The Post. “There was no water, but then when it rained there was flooding. There was no money at that time. There were big tents with a lot of people in them. There was disease.”

And that’s where the newest Net was born on October 3, 1994. Three years later, he got to the U.S. with his mother.

“She’s been through more than the average human,” Nuni said. “That’s why I’ve worked so hard to get to this point, and I want to continue to work.”

And work he did, through high school in at Mahtomedi High School in Minnesota, then nearby Concordia College and finally, Baylor, where he shone last season. He went undrafted in part because of his age, but now he he has his chance.

“He’s just learning the game. He’s just so innocent and hungry and enthusiastic,” Kenny Atkinson said. “When you see a guy like Nuni walk in the gym with his work ethic and his room to improve, having good practices for us, I think it’s neat. I’ve really enjoyed being around him.”