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View Full Version : Toronto Hires Masai Ujiri!



mvblair
11-09-2007, 02:17 PM
I don't normally like to post entire articles, but I get really excited when I see stuff like this. I think this Ujiri fellow is just wonderful. Apparently he played in Europe for a number of years (anybody see him?) after a career at Montana State. He then worked for the NBA's "Basketball Without Borders" program. Now he has been hired by Bryan Colangelo to help the Toronto Raptors find players in Africa, but his main goal remains helping improve ball in Africa.

Ujiri has an eye on Africa (http://www.thestar.com/Sports/article/241546) -- by Doug Smith, July 31, 2007, The Toronto Star

In the searing afternoon heat of Nigerian summer days, Masai Ujiri began an odyssey that landed him in the Air Canada Centre yesterday afternoon, assuming a position of authority with a promising NBA franchise.

The 36-year-old, who has become another assistant general manager to Raptor president and GM Bryan Colangelo and another valued member of the team's braintrust, has a past that makes him unique among NBA executives and a past that should make him invaluable in unearthing talent in far-flung corners of the world.

All from humble beginnings in soccer-mad Nigeria, where Ujiri grew up in Zaria idolizing Hakeem Olajuwon and fighting long odds to make it out of the country as a basketball player, let alone emerging as one of the top young minds in the game.

"When I played, you had to go to the basketball court between 3 and 4 in the hot, hot afternoon until the main players came. When they came in, you couldn't play, there were only two courts. When it got cool at night, and the floodlights came on, the older, better players played," he said. "That affects the growth of the game because kids are not getting the right opportunity on the facilities."

Today, it is part of Ujiri's life work to make sure those opportunities denied him are eventually available to all young African players. While his first task with the Raptors is identifying talent and nurturing it into something that will help the franchise, improving conditions throughout the continent will remain his passion. It is something he began as director of the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program, something he continued as director of international scouting for the Denver Nuggets a post he held until the Raptors came calling and something he will continue.

The by-product is simple to discern: Ujiri's work and dedication to a burgeoning basketball breeding ground like Africa cannot help but enhance the Raptor presence there and, perhaps, allow them to unearth some gem.

"It's the unknown for now because of the lack of facilities and lack of coaching and infrastructure over there," Ujiri said.

"The main thing about basketball in Africa is the kids don't start early enough because there is a lack of facilities. When they finally start at 15, 16, they are talented enough to come to college but they haven't been processed enough and they haven't played enough. That's why you see a lot of African players lack the feel for the game."

Ujiri developed his feel for the game in a journey that had many stops. He left Nigeria for prep school in Seattle, went to junior college in North Dakota and university in Montana. He played professionally in Greece, Germany, Belgium, England and Finland, soaking up as much information as he could and adding to his list of contacts.

"When you're not good like me," he joked, "your agent has to keep getting you jobs in crazy places. It was a great experience for me and that's what's helped me in the business because I ended up keeping a lot of my contacts, I thought it would be very helpful for me. You get to know coaches, basketball people around the world and it all comes around."

Those contacts will be invaluable to the Raptors as they try to make the next move up the NBA ladder. With highly respected European veteran Mauricio Gherardini already ensconced in the front office and now joined by Ujiri who Colangelo called "one of the brightest young minds in the game" they have made inroads into two significant places in the ever-shrinking basketball world.
Kudos to Colangelo for recognizing that Africa does have basketball talents!! I'm sure Ujiri is going to help out.

Ujiri's main goal of improving basketball conditions in Africa is noble. It should be his focus. Most basketball scouts simply look at Africa as a 7-footer farm, when in reality it is home to wonderful guards and forwards as well, who play in very aggressive leagues.

thadzonline
11-10-2007, 11:43 PM
I don't normally like to post entire articles, but I get really excited when I see stuff like this. I think this Ujiri fellow is just wonderful. Apparently he played in Europe for a number of years (anybody see him?) after a career at Montana State. He then worked for the NBA's "Basketball Without Borders" program. Now he has been hired by Bryan Colangelo to help the Toronto Raptors find players in Africa, but his main goal remains helping improve ball in Africa.

Kudos to Colangelo for recognizing that Africa does have basketball talents!! I'm sure Ujiri is going to help out.

Ujiri's main goal of improving basketball conditions in Africa is noble. It should be his focus. Most basketball scouts simply look at Africa as a 7-footer farm, when in reality it is home to wonderful guards and forwards as well, who play in very aggressive leagues.

Theyre going to hire me next for Asia....LOL

elaj
11-14-2007, 10:10 PM
I checked who this Urji guy is. :)

I found that he was a player in Belgium second division and in England. He is Nigerian, but also holds British passport.

After his basketball career he worked as a coach assistent for Nigeria U18 NT for two years, he was also a professional scout for Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets. He is also a co-founder of radarhoops.com (http://www.radarhoops.com/) scouting agency.

I was wondering when some pro clubs from Europe and also from NBA will start scouting Africa more precisely. The talent pool there is huge!

mvblair
11-15-2007, 05:40 PM
Thanks for the information about Ujiri, Elaj. I didn't know that he coached the U18. I hope he's still involved in Nigerians NT, because outside of Tunisia, Angola, and Egypt, most Africa NTs are very disorganized and need a lot of assistance.

I was wondering when some pro clubs from Europe and also from NBA will start scouting Africa more precisely. The talent pool there is huge! Absolutely. Right now the scouting in Africa seems limited to finding 7-footers. Like their soccer players, Africa surely has plenty of great-thinking guards and quick forwards. Why not search them out?