Toronto's rookie Koloko dreams of playing for Cameroon
TORONTO (Canada) - One thing that Christian Koloko is determined about is that playing for his Cameroonian national team remains one of his top priorities. When will that happen? It's matter of time, he has revealed.
Koloko featured in the 2017 Basketball Without Borders Africa in Johannesburg, where he first came across with NBA and FIBA coaches. He, like many other campers, was a raw player desperate of polishing his potential.
Fast forward to 2022, and the the Toronto Raptors selected him with the 33rd overall pick in last June's NBA Draft.
In an exclusive interview with FIBA.basketball, he revealed that his busy NBA schedule with Raptors shouldn't be an issue to make his childhood dream of playing for Cameroon a reality.
"I would like to do so, that is for sure," the 22-year-old said.
"I haven’t had the chance yet to wear the national team jersey and even to compete at youth level with my country, so yes, to be able to represent my country in the future is a goal of mine."
Koloko is one of the three Cameroonian players in the NBA - alongside Raptors teammate Pascal Siakam and Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid - who are yet to wear the country's jersey at official competitions.
Cameroon youth national teams rarely feature at FIBA Africa competitions, and, for some players, seeking greener pastures elsewhere has been a valid option.
Before joining the Arizona University, Koloko played High School at Sierra Canyon in Los Angeles, but, as he says, donning the Indomitable Lions jersey could be special. "I am very proud to be from Cameroon, and I am doing everything to be the best player I can be also in order to play for the national team. A lot of things still have to be figured out, but that is in my mind, that is for sure."
At 2,13m (7ft 1in), Koloko's unique size and skillset have raised eyebrows in his NBA rookie season. In 39 NBA games so far, he has shot 49.6 percent from the floor in 15.8 minutes per game. And his defense prowess of 1.2 blocks per game have signalled a bright future ahead of him.
And sharing NBA courts with his fellow Cameroonians, Koloko admits, it's special.
"I am very happy to have reached this level so far, and I am also very happy to have to share it with Pascal and Joel. So it's a great time, that is for sure. We all know that a lot of people back home, and around the continent, follow our steps constantly, and we are very proud to be representing Cameroon in the world basketball scene. It's a huge honor, and every time I step on the court or sit on the bench, I am always trying to make my fellow compatriots proud, and happy to see us in this great situation that we are in currently in. It's important to inspire the youth, and Pascal, Joel and myself are trying to do so the best possible way."
Ahead of the last Qualifying window next month in Egypt, Cameroon sit bottom of Group F with a 2-7 and three games left in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup African Qualifiers.
Koloko, who has been keeping a close eye on his country's campaign, remains upbeat about the future of the team.
"The qualifying campaign has been tough for the guys, and they haven't won many games, but I think that the team and everyone is improving and will learn from this experience. You can learn a lot when you compete against teams such as Senegal, South Sudan. We will get there, it takes a bit of time, but we have a lot of ingredients that can make us see the future being interesting."
"I am sure that we will keep getting better and better, and that we will learn a lot in the next couple of years. The level of competitiveness is getting better and better on the continent, and the goal is to have Cameroon being one of the most competitive national teams in Africa. We want to put Cameroon in the African basketball map," Koloko observed.
Cameroon face DR Congo, Egypt and Senegal from February 24 to 26. For more information on Cameroon's schedule, CLICK HERE.
Photo credits (NBA/Getty)