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Star African NBA player to watch: Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The 26-year-old Embiid, who was born in Yaounde but moved to the United States at 16 years of age to pursue his dream of becoming a professional basketball player, has firmly established himself as one of the Philadelphia 76ers’ best players – especially in recent times when the franchise has been unable to select other key men due to Covid-19 protocols and injuries.

Embiid put up arguably the best individual performance anywhere in the league this season when he racked up 45 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals and a block in Philadelphia’s epic 137-134 overtime win against the Miami Heat last week.

It once again underlined Embiid’s importance to the 76ers as they look to challenge for NBA honours in 2020-21.

“We put him in the middle of the floor,” Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers said, because whenever we put him below the free throw line, as far as throwing it to him, that’s where they were coming from.

‘I thought [Miami] really struggled, finding where to trap or who to trap off and it also allowed Joel to see when people were trapping him where to throw the ball, so it’s a good adjustment.

[But] he willed this game for us tonight,” Embiid himself had praise for his teammates, many of whom were rookies or youngsters stepping in for the likes of Seth Curry, Shake Milton and Tobias Harris: “They’ve been great. They’re learning on the fly. All of them have been great, especially with the guys that we haven’t been able to have the past couple of games.

“Isaiah [Joe] made a big 3, then in overtime, Dakota [Mathias] made a huge one. Tyrese [Maxey] has been great, especially if we’re not gonna have the other teammates for I don’t know how long, they need to keep showing up every single day to help us get these wins.”

The 76ers centre received special praise from veteran teammate Dwight Howard, who reckons the kind of dominance he showed against the heat could be a regular feature this season and going forward in Embiid’s career.

“I think he has the potential to be one of the greatest big men to ever play basketball. It’s really on him and how bad he wants it and I just want to be there for him being here for him…he showed tonight what he’s capable of and what he can do for his whole career.”

Embiid will again be a key man when the 76ers host the Boston Celtics on the morning of Saturday 23 January, with the action LIVE on ESPN 2.

Saturday 23 January

02:30: Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics – LIVE on ESPN 2

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