By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer
Former UC Davis player Chima Moneke has been around the globe since 2018 playing professional basketball. Fortune landed him in a Sacramento Kings uniform.
The 6-foot-6 Nigerian-born forward, who signed with the Kings in July, made the 15-player roster out of training camp, which began with 20 vying for a spot on the team.
Moneke said he understands that making the roster is a great accomplishment, but that he would have not made it this far without faith in himself and in his abilities to play basketball at the highest level.
“Honestly, I think the way my journey has been … it’s obviously going to be harder now. But the most difficult part has already happened,” Moneke said after the Kings beat the Los Angeles Lakers in a 133-86 preseason game at Golden 1 Center on Oct. 14. “I would say that 99.9% of the people who have gone through what I have gone through, started where I started from, wouldn’t be here right now. Because of that I have confidence in myself.”
Coach Mike Brown’s roster has three players from Nigeria’s men’s national basketball team, which he coached in 2021. KZ Okpala, a 6-8 power forward who spent the last three years with the Miami Heat, and third-year forward Chimezie Metu, who was born in Los Angeles but spent his early years in Nigeria, made the cut, too. All three are products of well-known educational institutions: Okpala played at Stanford and Metu at USC.
Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox looks forward to playing with the Nigerian trio, especially Okpala and Moneke, who are known for playing tenacious defense. Fox did emphasize that they will have to knock down shots “to gain the respect of opposing teams’ defense.”
“We already know what they can do defensively, rebounding the ball, and their effort,” Fox said. “But just making shots on the other end will just help the team in another way.”
Born in Abuja, Nigeria, Moneke was raised in Australia with four siblings and has lived on five continents (Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe and North America). His parents are Nigerian diplomats.
Moneke played for the Aggies from 2016 to 2018 after transferring from Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska. He averaged 16 points and 9.5 rebounds in 28.3 minutes per game in 57 games with the Aggies.
Last season Moneke played for Bàsquet Manresa (Baxi Manresa), an international club based in Manresa, Spain, averaging 14.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals and 23.5 minutes in 52 games.
Kings General Manager Monte McNair announced Moneke’s signing July 18. He said then that he and Brown first started making plans about a tryout with the Kings soon after Brown was hired.
“He called me in May. He told me what his plan was and what he expected from me,” Moneke said. “He said that he is going to stay on me to be who he expects me to be for this team. For a coach to believe in me means a lot.”