SHEFFIELD (Julio Chitunda's African Message) - It's been over two years since Carlos Morais tried to become the first Angolan to play in the NBA, but the topic remains very much alive in the basketball loving country so I invited Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey to share his impressions on the Angolan ace.
Ujiri invited Morais - the tournament's MVP - to join the Raptors for the pre-season and the agreement between the player and the club made international headlines for good reason.
After all, he was just trying to become the second African player - after Nigerian Ejike Ugboaja - to enter the NBA directly from an African league. Although Ugboaja was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers, he never played in any regular season game. So Morais was on the way to make history.
At the time, I questioned in this column, whether Morais would become the first the Angolan in the NBA.
He was 27 years of age at the time and was competing with Julyan Stone and Chris Wright for a spot in the in the Raptors 15-player roster. The 1.93m shooting guard had six points in 21 minutes in three preseason games with the Raptors, but the Morais euphoria in Angola as well as parts of the Angolan community in Toronto was short-lived as the Raptors waived him and Wright to keep Stone, instead.
At the time, Angolans speculated that Morais' age was the main reason he was waved, but he took to his Facebook account to thank fans, but made sure to remain positive.
It's because of Morais' experience with the Raptors - which generated so much interest not only in his native Angola but pretty much everywhere - that I caught up with Casey in London last week.
"Really great shooter," Casey told me when I asked him to describe the kind of player that he found in Morais. "At the time, just the numbers cut him. He is an NBA shooter. Masai [Ujiri] brought him in, and we looked at him, but we just didn't have a roster spot for him. [He is a] Great kid. And, I was just happy to see him having success in a lot of international games."
He is one the best shooters that I have seen in a long time as far as getting his feet set, big time scorer. - Casey
Then, I asked Casey whether Morais would have a chance elsewhere in the league.
"I don't know," he replied. "It just depends on the opportunities, right timing, right situations has to be right for him. This whole league is about opportunities. Age wasn't an issue at all. We had a lot of wing players already on the contracts, we had one opening, and that went to another player."