Pascal Siakam: Toronto Raptors star & his unconventional path from Cameroon to NBA

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By Isaac Fanin
BBC Sport in Toronto
For the first 17 decades of his life, Pascal Siakam did not pick up. It was just a match his older brothers played.
Siakam, the youngest of six siblings, was always more interested in sports, Despite the fact that his dad dreamed about among his children growing up to play in the NBA.
I played soccer. I had been great. I could have played football if I desired, he states.
The thing is, when you grow to be 6ft 7in tall, basketball is difficult to ignore.
Contemplating Siakam has been enjoying the sport for under ten years, his resume is more than striking. Currently 25, last season he was crowned the NBAs most advanced player. Since the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA championship title, he was a major contributor.
The route that led him there is not what youd call traditional.
Born in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon, Siakam spent a lot of his childhood training to the priesthood in a little city named Bafia, at St Andrews Seminary.
Seven hours drive from house, and with the discipline of the Catholic Church a strong presence in his world, Siakam did get to delight in town lifes energetic lights. But the experience strongly shaped him and who he would eventually become.
It was really strict, he states. Once I moved there, I didnt really know how to do a lot of things. It taught me how to be a guy. To accept responsibility and take care of myself.
Moving out there in the world by myself, finding a method and fighting on my own. I learned there.
For much of Siakams seven years in St Andrews, basketball was not a consideration. You will find 5am wake-up calls, using a demanding program of chores and tasks to occupy time.
His family thought the priesthood was. Again Siakam thought otherwise.
Obviously youre about church and thats exactly what you do daily, he says. My father at some point believed it would be something that I wished to do but it was my calling
It ends up his calling could come from the sport hed spent much.
To some basketball camp, Siakam went in 2011. A veteran of the league for 10 seasons, Mbah a Moute, 33 runs yearly basketball camps in his homeland. They also helped it is made by a different player from the country at the NBA — Joel Embiid.
Despite never having played organised basketball earlier, dated 17 Siakams competitiveness and athleticism were impossible to dismiss and a year after he had been invited to attend to the NBAs global development plan, Basketball without Borders (BWB), in South Africa.
It was a huge thing for me, Siakam says. Not only because I had a terrific basketball experience but that the environment around it. The NBA. My eyes opened to a different world that I didnt know about.
It got me excited and I felt like, when I got a chance to go to the US and perform , why not? Also, get a fantastic education. That was the dream.
Playing at the NBA was in this point not an expectation — not to Siakam nor people close to him. However he had been gaining admirers.
He was a scrawny, skinny kid, states Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors president, who met Siakam in South Africa in the BWB camp at 2012. However, you can inform his skillset. He had been scored in by him. He was just really passionate about the match. You could tell it was his all. I loved that about him.
Ujiri is one of the NBAs most admired executives for the way he has overseen the Raptors rise to the surface. In Africa, he was raised Much like Siakam — in Nigeria — and for years he has appeared to invest through the NBA, either in the continent and together with his very own outreach programme.
Obviously, at the time of the first meeting in 2012 Ujiri had no idea that hed be drafting Siakam as a pick. However he could observe a exceptional vitality, a spark into his match. It has remained with him.
He was only so aggressive and wished to win, Ujiri states. You see mind developing. For a kid to get that in a young age, it transfers. When Pascal plays now, you start winning.
Siakam states:I wasnt the greatest player but I was relentless, having that mentality never to quit and constantly go hard no matter what.
Im an athlete. Anything that involves jumping or running I have been enthusiastic about, so basketball was so fascinating.
From 2012, the three older brothers of Siakam had each obtained scholarships from the USA. The younger Siakam would follow suit. The attention of scouts had piqued . He had been offered the opportunity to proceed to Lewisville to finish high school. Aged 18, he would be leaving a complete life.
Moving from Cameroon into Texas, that has been a shift. Learning English, the culture, everything was different so I had to adjust, he states.
But Ive always been able to alter scene. From a young age, I had been taught how to do this and I sort of do it naturally.
After graduating from high school, a scholarship was obtained by Siakam together with all New Mexico State University. Tragedy struck, while he was there, in October 2014. His father Tchamo was murdered in a car accident back home in Cameroon. Since is a lively tribute to his dad everything Siakam has performed on a basketball court.
My father worked hard to take good care of six children, Siakam states. He worked hard to make sure we had what we wanted. He had his fantasy and Im in a position to fulfil this. Im proud that Im in a position to do that. I only wish he had been here to view it.
New Mexico State was abandoned by siakam . Despite having played the sport seriously for four decades, he departed since the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
However he had been viewed in the draft in 2016 as a risky choice.
My guys are extremely good, Masai Ujiri states. One of our international scouts, Patrick Engelbrecht, he told me:Keep an eye on him
He took me to watch him a few times. Over time, you keep tabs on them and you follow their advancement.
Siakam had enhanced in the eyes of Ujiri to draft him 27th in the very first round. His journey with the Raptors will begin.
Jama Mahlalela is your head coach of the Raptors side. He coached Siakam throughout his first time in the NBA where he turned involving the chief team and the G-league squad. As an example, Siakams energy and enthusiasm were apparent from the start.
We talk a great deal aboutpositionless basketball players, Mahlalela states. Players who arent only one specific thing. Pascal is that. He can play point guard through to centre. That is an skillset to deliver to this table.
He pushes himselfday-in-day-out. He doesnt take where he is now, he is always striving for what player he can be tomorrow
This season is Siakams fourth with Canadian unwanted Toronto. He went with anticipation to the year. They state in the NBA you require a superstar to acquire. That was proven by the title success of last season.
Following years of failure, Ujiri along with the Raptors swung and traded away the franchise player DeMar DeRozan for a disgruntled superstar Kawhi Leonard. The risk paid off and the Raptors were from the genius of Leonard willed to victory times . His summer departure to the Los Angeles Clippers left them devoid of a celebrity.
It is a emptiness that the Raptors are confident Siakam could fill. New from giving him a new max contract that will pay him a reported $130m (#99.7m) over four decades, the Raptors feel the only means for Siakam is upward. The transformation from reluctant baller to celebrity seems to be complete.
Being a champion, I think that it brings more confidence and that is a scary thing for the NBA. Pascal with much more assurance is trouble, Mahlalela states.
He is naturally a confident player, he plays with way and I believe today, having the assurance to mention I won this thing already as one of the essential players on a tournament team, thats going to construct his confidence even more.
The championship shine still lingers. When he required Africa basketball camp organised from Masai Ujiris Giants the NBA trophy siakam returned Cameroon for the first time in seven years that this summer.
Being around those children who whined of one day be where I am today, just bringing a taste of the trophy, something they could touch, it was an awesome atmosphere, he states.
Growing up, I did not have the chance to have that around so that it was a special moment for sure.
Despite the transformation — from a kid whod wake up at 5am to complete chores — Siakam stays incredibly humble.
Because the Raptors are the only team in the NBA outside the United States, theres a feeling within the organisation that they are overlooked. But the champions that are unlikely aspire to get contributed to victory by a man with the most unlikely of tales. Might and A guy who dreamed of being a footballer have ended up a priest.
The kind of mentality weve got on the group is, theres a great deal of underdogs and guys whove been in this position, Siakam says.
If you ask any winner, once they get that taste of winning, they always want it back. Thats my focus.
Weve got a completely different group, individuals stepping up into new jobs, and its exciting. Thats what you play .
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