For many Sixers fans, Joel Embiid’s future only matters so much as it impacts how many games he plays for the franchise. He looks like a centerpiece, and the team is happy to guide him through the process slowly in order to maintain his long-term health.
The fight to limit his minutes may face a challenge this summer. Though he has yet to commit to representing his country in the event, Joel Embiid was named to Cameroon’s preliminary 30-man roster for the 2017 FIBA AfroBasket event in the Republic of Congo.
The group qualifier for the event takes place in March, so it’s unlikely he’s going to be able to play for his country to guarantee they make it to the final stages. However, if his home country is represented during the finals in August — the event runs from the 19th through the 30th — don’t be surprised if Embiid is fired up to represent his country at a major event.
Cameroon soccer’s recent win at the African Cup of Nations inspired a celebratory tweet from the young center, breaking up the usual mix of goofiness and #NBAVote campaigning:
YESSSSS!!! We're back on top.. Cameroon with another African Cup... Impossible n'est pas Camerounais!! Allez les lions indomptables— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) February 5, 2017
If passion for his home country isn’t enough to get him there, one factor that could also sway Embiid is the presence of one-time mentor Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. The veteran forward is gearing up for one last run at a title on his home continent, and just a couple months ago he spoke on the possibility of adding young talent like Embiid into the mix for Cameroon:
I think that as we are all from Cameroon and very proud of where we are from, we all have this goal in mind. All of us want to represent Cameroon at its best. But there are also some circumstances that could make them not play for the national team, as they are still rookies. Regarding my situation, I think I will be here and play for the national team as it will be my last AfroBasket.
My teammates and myself have been trying to make history and we have been fighting hard for ten years now to reach the title. I hope that this AfroBasket 2017 will be the one we bring the title back home. If both Joel and Pascal will come to play with the national team next summer, that would be great.
On the Sixers’ end of things, this has the potential to disrupt (or at the very least alter) any offseason plans they have for their young big man regarding his workload. Fortunately, they have half a year to develop a plan for and with their franchise center, and can lighten his training camp burden as needed if it becomes an issue. Thankfully, AfroBasket typically doesn’t feature any back-to-backs, and the shortened length of FIBA games will guarantee his minutes load is still relatively light heading into next season.
Pride in country does also not guarantee he will suit up for Cameroon as a basketball player. Despite their triumph in the Cup of Nations, Cameroon’s soccer team is perhaps just as well known for the players who stayed home thanks to unrest with the Cameroonian Football Federation. Eight players refused call-ups to the senior team for the continental tournament, which provoked the team’s manager to fire shots at the guys who missed out on winning the whole thing. The basketball team and federation is a separate entity entirely, but representing your country is often a lot more complicated than it appears.
In any case, it’s a cool honor for a guy who has only been playing organized basketball for a short period of time, and a potential chance for Sixers fans to see their new favorite player on the court in some fashion over the summer. Embiid has long boasted #WeAllFromAfrica, and if he suits up for Cameroon this summer, you’d have to guess all Sixers fans will be rooting for a country in Africa, too.