Joel Embiid is originally from Cameroon.
Joel Embiid traveled a long way from his hometown of Yaoundé, Cameroon to make the NBA. Embiid enrolled at Montverde Academy, which has become one of the top high school powerhouses in the country located just north of Orlando, Florida. Embiid did not have much experience playing basketball, but coaches saw his potential early on. Embiid spoke with Bleacher Report about what it was like leaving Cameroon for Florida.
“Just imagine walking away from your whole family like that,” Embiid told Bleacher Report. “It’s not easy.”
Embiid’s father, Thomas Embiid, explained to Bleacher Report why he felt the move was necessary for his son.
“There was no sadness,” Thomas Embiid told Bleacher Report. “Coming to the USA was a huge opportunity for my son to establish himself. I kept pushing him to get his education and to play sports.”
Embiid knew very little English, but showed enough on the court to receive a scholarship offer from Kansas. Embiid averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in his one season with the Jayhawks.
While there was debate among the Kansas staff, Jayhawks coach Bill Self knew he wanted Embiid as soon as he saw him play.
“Are you frickin’ kidding me?” he said. “This dude could be the No. 1 pick in the draft. He can run. He’s got good feet. He’s got touch. He’s unbelievable. He’ll be the best big man we’ve ever coached if we can get him…Forget all the other guys we’ve been after,” Self said. “That’s the guy we’ve got to get. We’ve got to get Joel.”