Philly Connection: Joel Embiid

by Dan Cappetta

Continuing our Philly Connection series, we turn our attention to an unlikely subject, rookie center Joel Embiid. Here’s how the 20-year-old was linked to the City of Brotherly Love even before being drafted third overall by the Sixers this June.


Growing up in Yaounde, Cameroon, Joel Embiid spent countless hours in the gym honing his skills. His volleyball skills, that is… The lanky teenager was an impressive player, utilizing the same quickness, length, and athleticism that would eventually make him a terror on the basketball court to punish opponents on the volleyball court. He planned to eventually move to Europe in order to pursue the sport professionally, but it turned out he was destined for a different sport.

Embiid didn’t begin playing basketball seriously until 2011, when he attended a camp held by fellow Cameroonian Luc Mbah a Moute as a 17-year-old. The young center immediately caught Mbah a Moute’s eye, prompting him to invite Embiid to a Basketball Without Borders camp in South Africa later that summer. Since then, Mbah a Moute has served as a mentor to his young countryman, convincing him to continue with the sport and guiding him in his transition to life in the United States, first as a high school student in Florida, then as a freshman at Kansas, and now as a rookie with the Sixers.

Mbah a Moute, too, had picked up the sport as a teenager, moving to America as a high school junior and attending UCLA before being selected 37th overall by the Bucks in 2008. He began his career in Milwaukee playing for head coach Scott Skiles, the NBA’s record-holder for assists in a single game (30). Twelve years prior to drafting Mbah a Moute, Skiles played his final NBA game, suiting for the Philadelphia 76ers in 1995-96.

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