Matt Costello was unknown to many in the country but soon became a national star following his immense contributions to the Elephants’ successes in the group stage so far in Kigali.
Local fans were surprised to see a white man donning Ivory Coast national team basketball shirt at the ongoing Afrobasket competition in Rwanda.
The 28-year-old center/power forward was born in Michigan in the United States and played college basketball for Michigan State before joining the Atlanta Hawks in 2016 and San Antonio Spurs in 2018.
He had a short spell in Lega Basket Serie A, Italy’s equivalent of the NBA, before moving to Spain’s Liga ACB and currently plays for Baskonia.
Costello was persuaded by then Ivory Coast basketball team coach, Ignacio Lezkano, to obtain the nationality and play for team.
The White Elephant, as he has been nicknamed, is currently one of the top performers at the tournament. He pulled off 20 points and 8 rebounds in Ivory Coast opener against Kenya, and then 25 points and 12 rebounds against Mali.
In Group C final game, Costello managed 6 rebounds as the Ivorian team stunned Nigeria 77-68 to seal a flawless run in the preliminary round.
Ivory Coast are through to the quarterfinals and will face on September 1 the winner of the qualification to quarterfinals clash between host Rwanda and Guinea.