THERE are currently 13 African players in the NBA and 40 with one African-born parent. That’s a major advance from the days of the first African NBA stars, including legendary players like Manute Bol and Hakeem Olajuwon and in recent years, Africa has become a major hunting ground for top talent.
While African players are being recruited to play in the West as early as in their mid-teens, thanks to a plethora of international camps on the continent, the expectation has been that they would honour their lineage by eventually playing for their African national team. Not so for Philadephia 76ers franchise player, Joel Embiid.
The Cameroonian national on July 5 officially completed the process to become a French citizen. While this is a massive addition to the French national team, propelling the side to a serious international contender, the Cameroonian basketball fraternity is feeling a high level of betrayal.
“It is a story of ungratefulness and betrayal of unprecedented scale. This is how Cameroonians feel,” Herve Bassog, a locally-based coach, lamented.
Bassog explained that many believed Embiid would become a new flag-bearer and the face of sports in Cameroon, especially considering that football star, Samuel Eto’o, is at the tail-end of a legendary career,
“We had hoped he would follow the footsteps of the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Gorgui Dieng, Francis Ngannou, and George Weah who do so much for the youth of the country and yet he becomes French!” exclaimed Bassog.
Abel Nson, a Cameroonian national and scout for the Toronto Raptors, shared his views about the stunning decision from the All Star Center and NBA MVP Candidate,
“I’m not surprised. I’m disappointed in him choosing France in particular especially considering Cameroon’s history with France. It was a low blow.”
While Nson recognized that Cameroon’s Federation could have done more to entice the NBA player to don the country’s colours, ultimately it was Embiid’s decision to make.
“For Cameroon to have him wear the flag and play for the team one day would have been amazing but you also have to recognize that the level of basketball organization cannot be compared with the top basketball league in the globe. Embiid is a unicorn – a truly unique player. It is sad for Africa
to have a great player who doesn’t play for us.”
Meanwhile, in Debrecen, Hungary, the FIBA U-17 Women’s World Cup came to a close with two African teams in contention.
Egypt and Mali finished 11th and 10th respectively. The two teams met in a Malian-dominated matchup in the 9-12 classification games, with Mali beating Egypt 58-44 but losing to Slovenia 75-66 to finish 10th despite a phenomenal showing from Malian superstar, Rokiatou Berthe, who finished with a notable 31 points.
Egypt overpowered New Zealand decisively in the 11-12 classification games as Jana Elalfy led the North African side in points and rebounds, averaging a double-double of 16.4 points and 11 rebounds throughout the World Cup. The 6’4 center had a staggering 32 points and 26 rebounds in her final game.