06 March 2013

NIGERIA : Hoops takes Efevberha far and wide

Michael Efevberha (NGR) CEZ Nymburk (CZE)
NYMBURK (Afrobasket/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - When Michael Efevberha grew up in America and developed a passion for basketball, he probably didn’t envision that one day the game would take him to all corners of the globe.
Since playing basketball for the University of California Irvine and then California State Northridge, he has been with teams in New Zealand, Switzerland, France, the American D-League and earlier this season, Russia.
He didn’t just play for any Russian PBL club.
Efevberha was on the books of Spartak Primorie in Vladivostok, the Far East of Russia.
For a native Californian, it was a jolt to the system because the winter there is harsh.
"The basketball competition is great in Russia," Efevberha said to FIBA.com.
"(But) Vladivostock is cold. I've never been in a place that cold before, -15 (Fahrenheit), -20, having to walk to the team bus after practice. It was unbelievable.
"I stuck it out as long as I could, but I then had to make a switch."
The 28-year-old left and signed for CEZ Nymburk in January and almost immediately after celebrated a Czech Cup triumph.
The time in Vladivostok made a lasting impression on him, though.
"The minimal flights for us, it was eight and a half hours to go to Moscow," Efevberha said.
"You are just always changing time zones. Your sleep schedule is messed up. It's a tough place to play.
"I stayed in the house all day. The only time I left is when I had to go to the store, or practice.
"I had my girlfriend with me and she cooked for me every day. It was a nice apartment and they took care of us."
While he didn't see a Siberian Tiger, Efevberha did notice the wildlife.
"There were a lot of wild dogs," he said.
"A lot of wolves running around."
Nigeria connection
Efevberha has been to Africa, too.
He travelled to Nigeria, his father's homeland, in 2009, and played for the national team at the Afrobasket in Libya where he was their second leading scorer.
"The experience was great," he said.
"It was my first time being able to go to Nigeria, being able to meet my family from that side for the first time.
"There was some pretty athletic and hard basketball (during the summer), some of the most physical tournaments I've ever played in.
"Hopefully I'll play for them again.
"I didn't play for them this last time (2011-12) because they were having some problems with insurance and I wasn't positive if I wanted to do it or not, so I decided not to.
"I hope for the next tournament, they'll invite me because I'll be more than happy to represent my country."
Efevberha was one of Nigeria's fans last summer.
They went on an electrifying run at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament and booked a spot at the London Games.
"I was following them," he said.
"I have a couple of guys that I'm good friends with, Ekene Ibekwe and Chamberlain Oguchi. He's (Oguchi) actually with the Russian team I just left.
"I followed them and they did well.
"I was hoping they'd make it all the way (to the podium) but they weren't able to pull it out."
Whether Efevberha plays or not, Nigeria are never going to be short of talent.
They have a large pool of players to draw from, many that are in teams at American universities and colleges.
"We have a lot of talent, a lot of guys that were raised in America that are Nigerian and learned their basketball there," he said.
"I think we have a lot of athletes, a lot of guys that are strong and a lot of smart guys, too, who play the game well. There are a lot of guys to choose from.
"I don't know what it is, good genes are something."

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