TORONTO (FIBA AfroBasket 2017) - Pascal Siakam didn't start playing basketball competitively until 2012, but the Toronto Raptors rookie has developed so much as a player that he is raising eyebrows not only in the NBA but also in his home country of Cameroon.
"If you can play for your country it’s always great. So if there is an opportunity, I will definitely take an advantage of that" - Siakam
And, with Toronto's projected starting power forward Jared Sullinger getting injured in the pre season, Siakam continues to make the most of being in the starting five, averaging 5.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
But his is a story that starts to become a norm among young Africans living the NBA dream.
Just four years ago, Siakam was one of many Africans at Basketball without Borders (BWB) Africa, but on Monday night he faced one of his inspirational figures as the Raptors took on the Mbah a Moute's Los Angeles Clippers.
Siakam talked to FIBA.com.
FIBA.com: It's interesting the journey that you've taken from the Basketball without Borders  to playing in the NBA. Can you describe how that worked for you?
Siakam: Basketball without Borders was a great experience for me. I learned a lot about myself and the game. I think my love for the game grew there, but after that, I had an opportunity to go to the States. My [late] dad and brothers helped me out to find me a school there that I could go to. From there it’s history.
FIBA.com: Was any particular player or coach at the Basketball Without Borders who was a great influence for you?
Siakam: Not really. All of them were great. I didn’t have one person… especially because there were so many kids they talk to so many times. I talked to a lot of coaches, guys like Luc Mbah a Moute - obviously because he is from Cameroon -, Serge Ibaka, Luol Deng, all those guys. I remember them. The impact that they had was great because they came from where I am from, and they made it. It’s always inspiring to see them.
FIBA.com: There are three Indomitable Lions in the league. Is that something special for you?
Siakam: It’s great, it shows the game is growing, we just want to keep growing. As a player now we hope there are more, not just three, that's the goal. Luc Mbah a Moute is doing a great job by raising awareness and give the kids the opportunity. Having that really helps.
FIBA.com: Having role models like Luc to look up really helps to expand the popularity of the game.
Siakam: Yeah, definitely. Like I said, Mbah a Moute is doing a great job in that too. I think that people look at him and want to do that as well.
FIBA.com: You have yet to represent Cameroon on the big stage. Is that something that you look forward to?
Siakam: If there is an opportunity, and if everything is right, why not? I am just focused on my season. This is my rookie year, I am just trying to be the best player I can be for my team.
FIBA.com: Many international players feel they first want to solidify their place in the NBA. Obviously, it has to be your main priority, but there is still the passion. AfroBasket is growing, the sport seems to be going up on the African continent. Is there a sense of pride in that? Not just with Cameroonians but also the entirety of African basketball players in the league.
Siakam: Yes, definitely. It's always great to see that African basketball is growing. You definitely worry about your team now. If you got an opportunity, it's always good to go back. If you can play for your country it’s always great. So if there is an opportunity, I will definitely take an advantage of that.
FIBA.com: Has the Cameroonian Basketball Federation contacted you about being involved?
Siakam: Not really.
FIBA.com: Do you follow the AfroBasket tournament?
Siakam: When it is going on, I try to follow it, especially if Cameroon is there.
FIBA.com: When you started playing basketball, who were your basketball heroes and who influenced you?
Siakam: I didn't start the game so young. I didn't have a hero type of thing but as my love for the game grew I didn't watch one player, I watched a lot of players, and I tried to take from different players and add it to my game.
FIBA.com: Is there anybody you modelled?
Siakam: Yeah. [Serge] Ibaka, with his defense and being able to shoot the ball well. Other big guys that can handle the ball, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, players who can do different things.
FIBA.com: If you were to give advice back to kids in Cameroon and Africa in general what they could do to follow the path that you have got, what would you tell them?
Siakam: I would definitely tell them that anything is possible. Nobody knew me and I made it. Whenever you get an opportunity just work hard believe that it’s possible.