9. Jeremy NZEULIE (Cameroon)
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Nanterre's Nzeulie excited about return to Cameroon squad

NANTERRE (LNB/AfroBasket 2015) - Cameroon guard Jeremy Nzeulie has a lot to be thankful for.

For starters, the 24-year-old is glad that he gave basketball a chance after playing soccer earlier in his life.

"I think I was 14," he said to FIBA.com.

"I remember that I found a passion for this sport, something that motivated me to work and get better every day.

"I started playing in my home town of Creteil and then left for Charenton, who were the best team in the area.

"And after that, I went to Nanterre, a team that I left for only one year to play in Bordeaux.

"I played soccer for about eight years, but when I started play basketball it made me realize what the sport was I really liked."

Nzeulie is thankful that he had an opportunity to be with a Nanterre side that made a surprising run to the French title in 2013.

Nzeulie and his teammates captured the hearts of France by prevailing over Gravelines in the LNB Play-off Quarter-Finals, Chalon/Saone in the last four and Strasbourg in the LNB Finals.

"It was a great moment," Nzeulie said.

"Nobody expected us to get the title and we made it.

"We weren't thinking too much, just taking game after game and giving all our energy on the court every night.

"My best memory is when we won the last game.

"I had my career high (17 points) in this game and our fans were so great. I was feeling so good. That's probably the best memory of my life."

Then there is Cameroon, the country of his parents.

He had been in contact with the Cameroon Basketball Federation since he was 19 and had also taken part in a tournament with the team in China.

The call-up to the national team for AfroBasket 2013 was cause for great celebration.

"I was born in France but my parents and everyone in my family is Cameroonian," he said.

"I was raised in a Cameroonian family, so Cameroon is and will always remain my first country in my heart.

"It was an honor to play for the Cameroonians and represent my country."

One reason why Nzeulie has been able to catch the eye of Cameroon, and earn a living playing professional basketball, is that he has a good understanding of his strengths and weaknesses.

Aware that he is athletic, Nzeulie knows there is a lot of technique and tactical acumen that is required to play the game at a high level.

"I realized after my first practice with the professional team when I was 16 years old that technically I was miles away from them but physically I was ready," he said.

"So I started to work hard on the technical aspects of my game."

Since he launched his career, he hasn't looked back.

"Being a professional basketball player is a great chance because every day, you wake up to do what you love, you get paid doing what you love," he said.

"It also allows me to travel around the world and get to know new people."

It's not always an easy occupation, though.

"The hardest part is that you have the pressure of the results every day," Nzeulie said.

"If you don't play well for a couple games, you know people are going to start pointing at you.

"You are not sure if you will find another contract for the next season.

"It's tough to make plans cause you don't know how long you are going to stay in the same city.

"Some days, your body hurts, but you have to fight through the pain. And you also don't have that much time for yourself.

"But like I said already, it's a chance to do this job and I know I'm lucky because of that."

After capturing the title with Nanterre in 2013, Nzeulie joined up with his national team and played at the AfroBasket in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.

It was an eye-opening experience.

The [AfroBasket] level was way better than what I expected - Nzeulie

"Obviously there were a couple of countries that were really weak because they don't have pros but there were a lot of countries with great players and playing a good level of basketball,"Nzeulie said.

"The big difference is the physical aspect.

"In the AfroBasket, you have to be really tough and its also more about one-on-one than play with a lot of set plays when compared to France."

Nzeulie believes it's going to be a while before an African country can make that next step and be a medal contender at a FIBA Basketball World Cup or an Olympics.

"I don't know about a medal," he said, "but the African level is definitely getting better and if things keep going up like that, African teams are going to be more respected in the future."

Cameroon's successful qualification for AfroBasket 2015 means that Nzeulie can put on the national team shirt again.

"Yes, I really want to because I loved playing for Cameroon. The fans were great and it feels so good to represent your country."

Nzeulie says that Cameroon could be a force this summer in Tunisia and fight for an Olympic berth.

"I really think we have a chance because in 2013, it was the first AfroBasket for half of the team," he said.

"Now we have more experience and it will really help us for this year. If everybody comes, we are going to be really competitive."

Nzeulie has some unfinished business with Nanterre. The team is second in the LNB standings and going after another title.