Canberra's Chima Moneke edges closer to his NBA dream

Canberra basketballer Chima Moneke hasn't seen his parents for almost eight years but his emotional sacrifice could be about to pay off.

He has been turning heads across the United States and Moneke will edge closer to the NBA when he leads University of California, Davis, against the Northern Colorado Bears in their NCAA basketball season opener on Tuesday (AEDT time).

The goggle-wearing Aggies cult hero was named the Big West's most valuable player last season and led UC Davis to its March Madness debut.

The biggest college basketball tournament in the world was the perfect place for the Nigerian-born son of two diplomats to make a name for himself.

He's lived in five countries but Canberra has always been home, and coming back over the off-season was just what he needed to refresh ahead of the biggest few months of his life.

The youngest of six boys, Moneke was finally able to see his brothers for the first time in four years - but he's still counting down the days until he sees his parents again.

They're based in Nigeria and Moneke is working on getting them to California for his senior night next year, and he'd be lying if he said it wasn't hard being apart for so long.

"It's emotional and all that but I'm used to it now because I had no choice," Moneke said.

"I haven't seen them in so long because I'm chasing my dream. It keeps me going and motivated. It does get hard a lot of the time and I get emotional a bunch of times.

"But I'm closer to my goal so it's easier now than it was a couple of years ago."

The goal America's top division I transfer is edging closer to is being drafted to the NBA - but "haters" have made no secret of the fact they don't think he's good enough.

Moneke has had his fair share of doubters - they're coming at him "all the time, all the time, all the time" - it's been happening since the 198 centimetre, 101 kilogram forward started playing.

"When I started off playing it was locally, then state, then nationals, now I got to America and it's like 'you're going to stink'," Moneke said.

"Then junior college happened. Obviously I red-shirted my first year at Davis so people were like 'he's not that good'. They saw me coming off the bench and it was like 'ah well'.

"Now they're probably going to say 'he's not good enough to play in the NBA'. When I get to the NBA they're probably going to say 'he's not going to stick around in the NBA'.

"I've been proving doubters wrong for years now. I feel like every athlete does. There's never one athlete who has no haters. I welcome all of that because it's always fun to make your haters fans."

With the biggest season of his life on the horizon, those haters are quickly running out of excuses to put Moneke down.


Chima Moneke (University of California Davis), Bul Kuol (California Baptist University), Iain Morison (University of St Francis, Illinois), Jake Jobling (University of West Alabama), James Toohey (Saginaw Valley State University, Michigan), Maris Colton (Southwest Baptist University), Mitch Brown (Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kansas), Pietro Badalassi (University of St Francis, Joliet, Illinois), Rob Colton (Whitman College, Washington State), Tad Dufelmeier (Concordia University Irvine), Will Mayfield (New York Military Academy), Derek Emelifeonwu (Valley High School, Des Moines, Iowa), Yar Mayen (Southeast Community College)

This story Canberra's Chima Moneke edges closer to his NBA dream first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.