Why Raptors’ Pascal Siakam accepted Basketball Without Borders invite

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) dribbles towards the basket. (Christopher Katsarov/CP)

Pascal Siakam’s life could have gone in a completely different direction if not for one crucial decision.

In his third NBA season, the Toronto Raptors starting power forward has burst onto the scene as a leading Most Improved Player candidate, playing a vital role in the team’s impressive 27-11 start.

The Cameroonian is averaging career-high numbers across the board, largely the result of his incredible motor on both ends that opponents regularly have a hard time matching.

His unconventional path to the professional ranks is both unique and incredible, with Siakam first gaining recognition while attending the Basketball Without Borders camp in 2012 after receiving an unexpected invite.

According to the third-year pro, he almost didn’t attend the camp to begin with.

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“I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t a basketball player,” Siakam told ESPN’s Zach Lowe during an episode of The Lowe Post podcast.

“Basketball was just like, we had an old hoop at the seminary, but it was like nobody played, it wasn’t serious.”

Siakam wound up attending the camp not because of his love of basketball, but because of an opportunity to reconnect with a family member.

“My sister lived in South Africa at the time when Basketball Without Borders was in South Africa and for me it was like ‘I haven’t seen my sister in like five years or something…this is the best opportunity for me, I’m going to go, I’m going to see her, I’m going to hang out with her, I miss her,'” Siakam added.

In hindsight, Siakam’s last-minute decision to attend Basketball Without Borders — regardless of the initial motivation behind it — proved to be a life changing one. The forward showcased enough raw talent and potential to garner an opportunity to play in North America at God’s Academy, a prep school in Lewisville, Texas.

From there, Siakam’s next step was joining the New Mexico State Aggies as an 18-year-old. He wound up playing two seasons at the collegiate level before getting drafted by the Raptors with the 27th overall pick in 2016.

As they say, the rest is history.

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