Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/4/2019 (268 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Keith Omoerah is bound and determined to shoot hoops under the bright lights of Bell MTS Place later this summer, proudly donning the green and white of his father’s homeland.
The Winnipegger and former University of Manitoba Bisons basketball star has already suited up for Nigeria at several qualifying events for the upcoming World Cup in China, and desperately wants his name scribbled in indelible ink on the national team roster.
That way, he’ll earn the bonus of participating in Nigeria’s exhibition game with Canada in Winnipeg on Aug. 9.
"Just to have the opportunity is a huge feat in itself. I was talking to my family and friends about it. Being able to crack the roster and play at the World Cup would be amazing, but the game in Winnipeg would almost be as exciting," Omoerah, 27, said Monday. "Representing Nigeria and coming full circle and playing in my hometown, it would be an unbelievable experience I don’t even think I can put into words."
Right now, it’s simply a waiting game for the graduate of Grant Park High School who went on to play four seasons with the Bisons — averaging 13.5 points and nine rebounds per game in his last year — before turning pro in the fall of 2017.
He played the 2017-18 season with Bærum Basket Bekkestua, a team in Norway’s premier league, then helped Nigeria qualify for the World Cup in the fall before joining MBC Mykolaiv of Ukraine’s pro league in late December for the remainder of the 2018-19 campaign.
"All the pros from Nigeria are finishing up our seasons now. For us, it’s about staying sharp, getting healthy as quickly as we can and waiting for the coaches to make some decisions," Omoerah said. "From there, we’ll have a tryout later in the summer for the final roster and then it’ll be go time."
During several qualifying games for the African nation, the 6-5 shooting guard averaged nearly 18 minutes of court time.
"I always want to be able to do more, but at the same time you’re not trying to be the guy, be the man. Everyone’s taking a step back for the greater good, so you play whatever role you’re given and fulfil that role to the best of your ability," he said.
Omoerah’s father, Christopher, was born and raised in Nigeria. He immigrated to Canada in the 1970s. His mother, Shelley Patterson, is originally from Vancouver. The couple still resides in Winnipeg.
"I heard whispers through the grapevine that the game was coming to Winnipeg and hoping it was true," he said.
"I’m excited, but I think my dad’s even more excited, to see the two worlds collide. It’s an amazing opportunity for basketball here in Manitoba and in Canada.
"I would absolutely love to be a part of it. No shameless plug," Omoerah added, laughing. "If you’re listening, coach, I would love to be there."
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).