9th August, 2010
Three years ago, Solomon Alabi, was a member of the Under 19 national team that won the FIBA-Africa Junior Championship in South Africa. The 22 years old centre with 7â€™1 height will be playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA) with Toronto Raptors Basketball Club.Â He was in Nigeria for the recentÂ Giants of Africa Camp, as a role model to the young players in this yearâ€™s edition. Alabi, who was a player in the camp a few years ago, spoke to WALE JOSEPH about his career since leaving the country for United States and his dream of playing for the country very soon.
Welcome back to the country after many years in the United States?
Itâ€™s good to be back at home. It has been a long time I left Nigeria. I have been busy in the States with my studies at the Florida State University working hard to realise my dreams.
How far have you been able to achieve this dream?
Getting drafted to play in the American basketball circuit means so much to me. Iâ€™m excited about my call up to play at Toronto Raptors. This is a great opportunity for me. I got the chance to represent Nigeria at junior level and now Iâ€™m thrilled that I will represent Nigeria at the NBA.
Can you tell our readers how you came about the drafting to the Raptors?
Itâ€™s not easy at all. I actually got drafted by the Dallas Mavericks, but was traded to the Raptors with a three-year contract.
How have you been coping since then?
I have been working hard getting ready for the upcoming season. This is summer, so I need to get ready, train very hard for the task ahead of me. NBA programme is on now, so Iâ€™ve been travelling with the team.
What should your fans expect from you this season?
My hope and expectation is to be better than the other guys in the NBA and I am going to keep working hard to make sure my team win every game. I just want to go out there to play my games and enjoy the season.
Hakeem Olajuwon is a Nigerian that has made huge impact in the NBA, how are you going to cope with the pressure of playing in the NBA and making your own impact?
The fact that another Nigerian, Hakeem Olajuwon has made it so big in the NBA is a source of inspiration to me. I am desirous of this feat and I intend to follow the footsteps of this illustrious compatriot. You know, Olajuwon was a great NBA player, I want to play like him and achieve more than him. I want to be one of the top 50 NBA players of all time.
What are you doing in Nigeria?
I can never forget my background and those who helped me realise my dream. I am in the country as a role model to the participants at the Giants of Africa Camp organised by Masai Ujiri, who is the Assistant General Manager of Toronto Raptors. Interestingly, I was a member of this camp six years ago. So Iâ€™m in the country for the Camp and I am excited about it. I was in the same situation like them (the participants). Now I am back here to talk to the players and let them know that anything is possible if you work hard and put your mind on what you are doing. I hope my presence here, as a role model, will help the players know that they can equally make it big in the game.
Do you have any plan to represent the country in the future?
Yes of course, I am just 22-years-old and I am looking forward to playing for the senior national team because I have come of age. More so, a lot of my teammates from 2007 in the African and World Championships of that year are doing great today. They are playing college basketball in the United States now.Â Joseph Katuka is in George Washington; Emmanuel Negedu just got transferred from Tennessee to New Mexico. So I believe Nigeria has a great team for the future.