The Pascal Siakam Story, From Africa To The NBA – A More Than Interesting Road To The NBA
The Pascal Siakam Story, From Africa To The NBA – A more than interesting road to the NBA
Every player’s journey to the NBA is a different, it’s usually a path riddled with hard work, trials and tribulations. It’s a struggle, and it requires the ability to dedicate your entire life for a dream.
This was no different for Cameroon born Toronto Raptors recruit Pascal Siakam, who has had a more than interesting road to the NBA.
Siakam had a dream, but it wasn’t in basketball, it was in fact for soccer, which is by far the biggest sport in African regions.
After dreaming of playing soccer professionally, Siakam’s life took a twist when he was just 11 years old after leaving boarding school.
The summer of 2012 was a life changing one for the 6”9’ power forward. After attending the Luc Mbah a Moute camp the year before purely for fun, Siakam caught someone’s eye, and was invited to Basketball Without Borders Camp in South Africa.
Siakam didn’t think much of the invitation, and actually going to turn the offer down, but his sister lived in South Africa who he hadn’t seen in years, so he decided to go and visit her. He thought, “a free trip to South Africa to hang out with my sister and all I gotta do is play a little basketball? Why not!”
Siakam entered the building and saw a massive crowd gathered around a couple of figures on the other side of the gym. He was standing next to another camper, and asked,
“Who are those guys?” “Why is everyone so excited?”
“Come on, man, that’s Serge Ibaka and Luol Deng!” the camper said.
The camper then looked at Siakam like he was crazy and ran to the crowd.
It was understandable, Siakam hardly watched the NBA growing up, but as he learned more about Deng and Ibaka, he started to look up to them. With this, Siakim learned of the hardships and slim odds the pair of them beat to make it to the NBA, and it would be possible for him also, if he dedicated himself.
All of a sudden, the fun aspect of the basketball camp was done, it was all about trying to make this new dream come true, Siakam wanted to play in the NBA.
Siakam wasn’t outstanding at the camp, but played well enough to catch some of the American recruiters attention that were in attendance. An American prep school representative from God’s Academy approached the young man and started talking about bringing him to Louisville, Texas. Siakam didn’t speak English, and it seemed like a world away, but his father encouraged him to go.
At that point, Siakam became dedicated to making this dream come true for his dad.
“I was playing for my dad now. I was playing for his dream of having a son in the NBA. I wanted to make him proud and give him this gift.”
At the basketball camps back home, Siakam got by with his natural talent and athleticism, but now, in the States, he would really have to learn the game.
He put in countless hours of practice, and after initially being mocked and not taken seriously by his teammates, Siakam started to make an impact.
Siakam got a few letters, no big college programs, but New Mexico impressed him.
College was a growing and adapting process for Siakam. According to him, he got his “ass kicked everyday” when learning the ropes of college basketball.
That triggered the same mindset of overcoming these obstacles, and Siakam was in the gym every morning and night his entire freshman year trying to get better.
The next summer, just as the season was approaching and Siakam was in great shape, he received heart breaking news that his father had passed in Cameroon.
After his mother refused him to come home and stay to pursue his NBA dream, Siakam did everything in his power to make his dad proud.
He had an excellent freshman year, and was named WAC freshman of the year. He didn’t want to think about the NBA just yet, but in the back of his mind he knew it was a very real possibility.
In his Sophomore year, Siakam averaged 20 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, as the NBA noise started to increase for him. He was named WAC player of the year and the dream of the NBA was right there.
Siakam then attended numerous workouts with NBA teams, but the Raptors one was different.
After dominating in the Raptors group workout, when he thought his decision and his future would become easier, it became more confusing than ever. He was hit with all kinds of statements and predictions.
“We think you might be picked somewhere in 20s.”
“Late second round.”
“How do you feel about going to Europe for a year?”
“You know, I’ll be honest, you might want to go back to school. Try again in a year or two.”
Opting to keep his name in the draft pool and take a risk, Siakam watched the draft in Orlando with his brothers, agent and a few friends.
Siakam recalls the nervous moments and what followed.
“I had so much nervous energy, I could barely sit still. As the first round went on, into the early 20s, I started to get more anxious, even worried. Maybe entering the draft had been a huge mistake. Then, when the 27th pick was announced, and I heard Adam Silver call my name, everyone around me lost it. I was going to Toronto. I guess my workout really was as good as I’d thought.
My brothers were crying and screaming, my friends were crying and screaming, I was crying and screaming … it was just too many emotions.
At that moment, more than anything, I wished I could’ve seen my dad’s reaction.
My brothers and I huddled together, smiling through our tears. We couldn’t speak, but we didn’t have to. We knew we were all thinking the same thing: We did it.”
From that moment on, Siakam has grown into an important rotation player for the high flying Raptors, and is a fan favourite among the Canadian faithful.
Siakam now pulls on the Raptors jersey every night with his name and the number 43 on it. He has fulfilled his dream and succeeded in what his father always wanted.
“Every time I enter the game, I touch the number 4 on my jersey four times for my dad and three brothers, then I touch the the number 3 three times for my mom and two sisters, then I cross myself for God and point up to the sky. I know my dad is watching.”