In a Q&A with Quintessential Gentleman (QG) on Wednesday, Portland Trail Blazers center Festus Ezeli spoke of the challenges he faced as a youth and why he got into basketball when he did. It was a unique look into his past and how that past continues to influence his present.
One of the biggest challenges of my life was leaving my family in Nigeria at the age of 14. I moved to the US to live with my uncle, in search of greener pastures. But life in America was very different and challenging for me. I missed my family, my friends, my environment and the only home I knew. It was especially lonely because I moved in with my uncle who was a specialist pediatrician in Yuba City, California with a very busy practice – which meant he worked long hours. I had to learn to be by myself most of the time and the loneliness was very hard on me.
In an effort to make friends, I chose to pursue what turned out to be my biggest challenge yet – Basketball. In an effort to assimilate me into my new culture, my uncle signed me up to play ball for an AAU team and also enrolled me in Jesuit High School in Sacramento. Basketball, however, proved to be a bigger challenge than I envisioned. I couldn’t even do some of the basic things that kids younger than me could. I was very frustrated with myself; and in turn, the coaches were frustrated with me as well. The lowest point of it all was when I was cut from my high school team. That lit a fire in me that burns till this day. It made me determined to work harder than I had ever worked at anything to make myself a successful basketball player.
Ezeli also addressed his ties to Africa, his excitement to play for the Trail Blazers, and his sense of fashion in the full article, which can be read here. Check it out.