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From Cameroon to Toronto: Pascal Siakam has Become a Franchise Player

Original Photo Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Last season Pascal Siakam emerged on the scene as one of the bright and promising talents in the league winning an NBA championship and the Most Improved Player award. 

This season has seen him exceed expectations and let it be known that he is capable of being a franchise player. The Toronto Raptors saw this capability in Siakam after winning the championship and gave him a four-year maximum contract extension worth $130 million this past summer. 

The 25-year-old power forward is averaging 24.6 points, 3.6 assists, and 7.8 rebounds while leading the Raptors to a 26-14 record after losing Kawhi Leonard in free agency last summer. Siakam has stepped up as the go-to scorer for the Raptors without any problems and the Raptors don’t seem to be missing a beat. 

Siakam’s rise to stardom seemingly came out of nowhere for those watching from the outside. In just his fourth season in the NBA, he has managed to improve at a rapid pace almost mirroring the ridiculous rate of improvement that Giannis Antetokounmpo had in his first four seasons in the league. Already a solid player on defense, the biggest improvement in Siakam’s game has come on the offensive end. In four seasons his scoring average has risen from 4.2 points to 7.3 points, to 17 points, and then this season’s average of 24.6 points per game. 

His shooting from beyond the arc is what has allowed him to expand and improve his offensive numbers all around. In his first season Siakam shot an abysmal 14 percent from three on 0.1 attempts per game; fast forward to this season and he is now shooting 39 percent on 6.3 attempts per game. That improvement all came in a four-year span which is remarkable and shows that Siakam is willing to work on his weaknesses during the offseason. 

Siakam is an all-star, to say the least, and his arrival to this point was something that almost no one could have seen coming, nobody but him. As far as we are all concerned Siakam is supposed to be here, but to Siakam who said, “I feel like I’m the chosen one,” this was inevitable. 

Born in Douala, Cameroon in Africa; Siakam was never on the path to becoming a hooper. Believe it or not, he was on the path to become a Catholic priest and was attending St. Andrews Seminary school in Cameroon. It was while attending a local camp that former NBA player Luc Mbah a Moute discovered a young 15-year-old Siakam and with no real basketball experience he got invited to the “Basketball Without Borders” camp. It was here his hoops journey began and he ended up flying across the Atlantic to attend prep school, God’s Academy, in Texas. 

Siakam wasn’t a ranked player and didn’t have the coaches of the top division 1 programs fighting for his commitment to their schools. His lone offer came from New Mexico State University and it was there where he showed that his work ethic and grind could not be ignored.

(Original Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

While at college Siakam lost his father in a car accident in Cameroon. Being in the United States he was not able to get a US Visa to leave and attend his father’s funeral. This left him devastated and gave him a new drive that would ramp up his motor and drive. From that point, everything he did on and off the court was to make his father proud of him. He left New Mexico State with Western Athletic Conference Rookie of theYear and Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors in just two years. His final season as a college player saw him average an impressive 20 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks.

The work he put in at New Mexico State was enough to get him drafted with the 27th pick in the 2016 NBA draft by the Toronto Raptors. In his rookie season, he spent time switching from the Raptors to their G League team, the Raptors 905. Siakam helped lead the 905 Raptors to the title and was named the 2017 G League Finals MVP, all but solidifying that he was ready to contribute to an NBA team.

Since then Siakam has rapidly become one of the best two-way players in the league, at first drawing comparisons to Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. He is now an NBA champion and the reigning Most Improved Player. He has managed to get better and now possibly has a chance to win the Most Improved Player award again which is unprecedented. At first, being compared to Draymond Green, it is now safe to say that he has surpassed Green and will continue to get better. 

In a matter of four years, Pascal Siakam has went from G League player to an NBA star and champion. We all love a come-up story and Siakam has one of the most intriguing ones. An unconventional path has led Siakam to becoming one of the best players in the league today. At only 25-years-old the future for Siakam is bright and with the continued improvement he showed during these last few seasons who knows where his ceiling is. 

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