What if Joel Embiid did not get injured? Would he be the #1 pick this year? What would it change for him? Recently drafted by the Philadelphia Seventy Sixers, the Cameroonian native was trying 4 years ago to become a professional Volley-Ball player. Things changed since that time, and after less than 4 years in the US, Joel is now heading to a bright future even though he underwent surgery for a broken navicular bone right before the Draft.
Discussion with the #3 Pick of the 2014 NBA Draft…
French Insiderz: Back 2 years ago, were you expecting such thingś to happen?
Joel Embiid: Honestly ? Not at all…This whole thing happened so fast! I still can’t believe it. I always thought I had a chance to get drafted but not that fast and not that high…
French Insiderz: What has been the biggest challenge so far?
J.E.: Being far away from home and on a mission! Having to learn English and catch up with US kids that have been playing bball since their very young age.
French Insiderz: Who helped you go through your american journey?
J.E.: My coaches in High School and college along with my mentor Luc Mbah a Moute.
« Kansas brought me more toughness & discipline »
French Insiderz: What did this year spent in Kansas bring to your game?
J.E.: Discipline and more toughness. I’ve also learned the game a lot more.
French Insiderz: When did you figure out you were ready for the draft?
J.E.: I only started to realize it towards the end of the season around February.
French Insiderz: How does it feel to be a potential #1 Pick knowing where you were few years ago?
J.E.: It’s unbelievable ! I started playing basketball watching tapes of Hakeem Olajuwon – who’s my favorite player – and now thinking I could be in the same position as him 30 years later feels just like a dream !
« Andrew Wiggins is like a Brother to me! »
French Insiderz: You seem to have a special relationship with Andrew, Jabari and other top picks, can you talk about it?
J.E.: I am obviously close to Andrew because of KU. He’s like a brother to me. We talk everyday and look out for each other. I met Jabari last year with the different High school All Star Games that we’ve been invited to and now we got even closer being represented by the same group and having trained in L.A. together. Same thing for Marcus Smart who’s a cool dude and a goofball ! LoL, I also know Dante Exum since last year’s Hoop Summit. Good people and I love his game !
French Insiderz: What happened in your mind when you got hurt?
J.E.: At first I was a little disappointed because it happened so close to draft day and then after 24 hours I started to get it back together and see it as a little « bump on the road »… I believe in God and only Him knows how he works things for you. It’s a minor setback. I’ll come back stronger !
« Have to prove some doubter wrong when I get back! »
French Insiderz: How do you deal with it?
J.E.: I just have to be patient but I just stay positive and focused. It even gives me more motivation actually, because I’ll have to prove some doubter wrong when I get back!
French Insiderz: What does it change in the near future?
J.E.: I guess nothing really. Other than I can’t play in Summer league and that I’ll probably miss the start of the season. But I know what I am and stay confident.
French Insiderz: How long will last the process to recover?
J.E.: Doctor Ferkel said 6 weeks in a cast and then rehab – All together it should take 5 to 8 months.
French Insiderz: What is the most important thing for you now?
J.E.: Well, I just want to keep my focus on rehab now.
French Insiderz: Did you realize that you could be the third #1 Pick coming from Africa?
J.E.: I know … It’s crazy! But in the meantime it’s flattering to see your name amongst other great ones like Olajuwon knowing how he impacted the nba game. I hope I’ll also leave my mark in the NBA when I retire.
« Even though I could not attempt the draft due to my injury, I was surrounded by people I love »
French Insiderz: Being injured, could you attempt the draft?
J.E.: No unfortunately I could travel at all for two weeks following surgery.
French Insiderz: Who did you spent this special day with?
J.E. : My parents came from Cameroon to be there and support me for that special day. My younger sister also came from Virginia. My agents Francois Nyam and Mats. Then it was a bunch of friends too.
French Insiderz: How did they react when your name was called?
J.E.: Everyone was excited , proud and happy for me! It was a huge round of applause! That was fun!
French Insiderz: What were your feelings once you’ve been called?
J.E.: I was really happy and the pressure got released! Because I didnt really know where I would end up going and in my head, I could see me drop low so I finally felt good and realized it was a new beginning.
Interview by Almamy Soumah
Pictures : Courtesy of Joel Embiid’s Management