The following is a press release written by Iowa State athletic communications.
AMES, Iowa – Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim is preparing to be extremely busy this summer. The All-Big 12 Honorable Mention pick has a chance to realize a childhood dream by being selected as one of 15 players fighting for 12 spots on the 2012 Nigerian National team. The team is vying for one of three remaining berths to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Ejim, whose parents migrated from Nigeria to Canada before he was born, is ecstatic about the opportunity to play on the world stage.
“It has always been a dream of mine to play in the Olympics,” Ejim said. “The Nigerian coaches contacted me and suggested I go through the tryouts. I am really looking forward to it.”
The Nigerian team will go through practices and exhibitions in the month of June before heading into the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela, June 30-July 8. Nigeria is one of 12 teams (Russia, Macedonia, Lithuania, Greece, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, New Zealand, Angola, Nigeria, Jordan and Korea) fighting for the final three spots at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, July 28-August 12.
The United States, Spain, France, Great Britain, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, China and Tunisia have already qualified for the Olympic Games. Ejim leaves this week to begin training. Of the 15 players on the Nigerian roster, Ejim is the only one currently playing collegiate basketball. The rest are all playing professionally, including three current NBA players: Al Farouk Aminu (New Orleans Hornets), Ben Uzoh (Toronto Raptors) and Solomon Alabi (Toronto Raptors).
The training tour begins with six games in China, followed by practice and games vs. Great Britain in Houston. From June 25-29, the Nigerian contingent will play exhibition games vs. Brazil, Greece and New Zealand in Brazil. The team will then be trimmed to 12 players before the qualifying tournament in Venezuela.
Ejim was a key component in Iowa State’s successful season in 2011-12, averaging 9.3 points and 6.6 rebounds for a squad that tied for third in the Big 12 at 12-6 and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Championship. Ejim picked his play up late in the season, averaging 10.9 points and 7.1 rebounds in Big 12 games. His rebounding total ranked sixth in the Big 12 Conference in league play.
“The Nigerian coaches talked to me about being a part of this program in the future even if I don’t make the 12-man team,” Ejim said. “This is a really cool opportunity that I am excited for. Hopefully I can make. I am not really sure what my odds are, but I am going to go out there and work hard and show them what I have.”