Canada qualifying for the Olympics in Men’s Basketball was so close, yet so far. After losing in the tournament Finals to France, Canada will have to wait until 2019 before they potentially have another shot at competing against the world’s best international teams. Every game for Canada seemed to be a nail biter, with both Senegal and New Zealand coming down to the final possessions. While all eyes were on NBA stars Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson, Melvin Ejim emerged as the unsung hero of the Canadian Basketball team. His biggest play of the tournament came on an And1 play in the final minute to seal the win for Canada in the semi-finals.
Melvin Ejim is working for a shot with an NBA team and there is little doubt that he will emerge when given the opportunity. Born in Toronto, Ejim moved to Maryland and attended St. Mary’s Ryken High School. After one season, Ejim transferred to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire and helped lead the squad to the 2010 National Prep School Championship. Following his successful high school campaign, Melvin Ejim played 4 seasons at Iowa State College and emerged as one of the best players in the Big 12. He finished the 2013-2014 season averaging 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds a game before being named the Big 12 Player of the Year. Ejim still holds records to this date, including games played for the Cyclones and most points in a game (48) by a Big 12 player.
After going undrafted in the summer of 2014, Ejim spent some time playing in the Vegas Summer League with the Philadelphia 76ers and San Antonio Spurs. Later that month, Ejim signed with the Italian Virtus Roma in Europe and appeared in 29 league games and 18 Eurocup games. The following summer, Ejim returned to the NBA Summer League and shined with the Orlando Magic, even appearing in 4 pre-season games. However, he was not offered a contract due to the Magic’s crowded front court. At the start of the 2015-2016 NBA season, Ejim spent time with the Erie BayHawks of the D-League and averaged 14.6 points and 7.7 rebounds in 39 games. This past March, Ejim signed with Reyer Venezia Mestre, another Italian professional basketball club.
Going undrafted has not phased Ejim, as he continues to improve his game every year. Many basketball analysts have praised his high Basketball IQ, knowing what to do in various situations and going full speed on every possession. His “NO QUIT” attitude has made him a desirable asset for many teams, especially Team Canada. Raptors 905 Coach Jesse Mermuys believes Ejim is close to becoming an NBA player if he continues this progression. However, teams have been hesitant to sign Ejim, as he faces the same challenges as notable players like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Bennett. Are they not athletic enough to play at the NBA 3 or too small to play at the NBA 4? Standing 6’6 and weighing 220 pounds, all these concerns have added extra motivation for Ejim to improve his game. Working on his post-up, long range jump shots, and defensive assignments will give coaches the flexibility to play Ejim at either forward position. Not to mention his “team first” demeanor is a significant quality to have in a young athlete these days.
After breaking out this past season through both international and D-League play, Ejim has shown that he has the work ethic to be an NBA player one day. Keeping grinding young man, the entire nation is rooting for you!