Basketball: Off the court with Michael Efevberha

Basketball: Off the court with Michael Efevberha

The name Efevberha sounds Nigerian specifically southern Nigeria but Michael doesn’t look it. Who is he? Where does he come from, his interests and a lot more questions I thought about during the February window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers held in Mali.

Efevberha was at his best in Mali and contributed immensely in the clean sweep against Rwanda, Uganda and host Mali. He may not be as popular as some other names in the team but he is not new to the national team having played in the 2009 Afrobasket Championship.

Chief Sports Reporter ACLSports, Queen John caught up with the 33 year old who shone at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers in February. The Sagesse (Lebanon) guard was a joy to watch at the FIBA second window and didn’t look like he was away from the national team for 9 years.

Efevberha was a top performer in Mali with 21.0 EPG (efficiency per game). He averaged 15.7 PPG (point per game), 4.3 RPG (rebounds per game) 5.7 APG (assists per game) in 26.3 MPG (minutes per game).

The D’Tigers guard was among 17 players invited for the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers scheduled to take place in Lagos this weekend. Sadly, he won’t be available for the games due to some personal reasons. Head coach of the D’Tigers admitted that he will be missed at this qualifiers.

Below was my conversation with Efevberha about his life off the court, basketball and family.

When did you start playing basketball?

I started playing basketball at a very young age. I wasn’t very good though. I started taking basketball more seriously when I started high school.

How you started your basketball career?

My very first professional job was in the NBA D League with the Idaho Stampede.

Where are your parents from?

My mother is from Columbus, Ohio USA. My father is from Nigeria of course; from Sapele, Delta State.

How supportive have your parents and family been?

My family and parents have always been very supportive. They have always wanted to just see me succeed in whatever venture I choose throughout life.

Have you ever been to Nigeria?

Yes, I visited Nigeria when I played for the National Team back in 2009.

When was the last time you played for the National Team?

The last time I played for the National Team was in 2009 for the AfroBasket Tournament that was held in Libya.

Did your February invite surprise you?

I was not surprised by the invite; I have received invites almost every time that the National Team had a tournament, but I was never able to attend because of contractual obligations.

You were one of the best players at the World Cup Qualifiers in Mali. What inspired you?

Just playing for my country was enough inspiration. It’s a different type of atmosphere when you are playing for the country you are from. It is truly a blessing.

What did it mean to you?

It means a lot to me. Not many people ever get the chance to play for their home country. Like I said before, I feel very blessed to be a part of the National Team and I will always cherish these moments.

You missed out in 2015 and 2017 Afrobasket Championships and Olympics?

I was under contract with other clubs during those times, and it wasn’t easy to just up and leave; but I am happy to be a part of the team now.

How would you have felt if you were available to play in front of your home country?

It would have been amazing to play in front of my home country and well as in front of all my family members that live there in Nigeria but disappointingly I couldn’t make it this time.

Playing against Mali, Uganda and Rwanda do you think they can pull up a surprise in Nigeria?

I respect all of my opponents to the fullest, so with that said, anything is possible; but hopefully my team mates will go out there and take care of business like we did in Mali.

Clubs previously played for?

I have played all over the world. (New Zealand, France, Switzerland, Dominican Republic, Russia, Czech Republic, China, Lebanon).

How was life playing in China before moving recently to Lebanon?

Playing in China is fun. They really love the game out there; tons of fans. I am also a fan of Chinese food, so I don’t have many problems when it comes to finding something to eat.

How long have you been playing there?

I played in the China CBA for 2 years, and I also played in the China NBL on 2 separate occasions during the summer.

Why the choice of China and not Europe or NBA?

China was my choice for 2 years obviously because of the talent level there, as well as the amount of money that they pay the imports.

Was it your choice to play in China and has it paid off?

Yes it was 100% my choice, and it was the best decision I ever made in my Life, besides having my daughter.

Challenges playing in China?

I think the toughest challenge in China is just the language barrier. Every team has translators for the foreign players, but sometimes things don’t translate the right way and people tend to have a lot of communication problems.

Any plan to play again in Europe or NBA?

Europe can definitely happen if I get a deal that I really like. The NBA could happen as well if anyone ever showed any real interest; I know I would do very well in the NBA.

What do you do outside the basketball court at your leisure time?

I just relax at home and play with my daughter. I tend to just spend as much time with my family as possible whenever I’m back at home.

Any basketball clinic/programme for the youths/kids in Nigeria now or after your playing career?

That is something that I am definitely interested in doing at some point; and not just only in Nigeria. I’ve seen some of my past National Team teammates doing that type of thing for the youth and I think it’s amazing!

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