Chomche talks BAL, representing Cameroon and future prospects

STANDING at 2.11m (6ft11), Ulrich Chomche towers over almost everyone on the basketball court. But it’s not just his statuesque figure that makes him a rising star in the game. His incredible talent, dedication to his craft, and humility has seen him grace some of the biggest stages. 

The Cameroonian-born baller is among the young top prospects at the NBA Academy in Senegal and given his experience at a young age, the road ahead looks promising. Seventeen-year-old Chomche already has two Basketball Africa League (BAL) seasons under his belt having played for home club Force Armees et Police (FAP) last year and Rwanda’s REG this year.

Last year, he scooped the Defensive Player Award at the 2022 Basketball Without Borders camp in Cairo, Egypt. At home has his talent has not gone unnoticed, as he suited up for Cameroon in major qualifying tournaments. 

In this interview with The Big Tip Off, Chomche talks about his journey to the NBA Academy, his goals, and wearing the red, green and gold of Cameroon.

Ulrich Chomche second picture
Ulrich Chomche has played in two seasons of the BAL. Picture: The BTO

Mentorship and Coaching

Chomche’s basketball story started in the small village of Bafang, situated in the West of Cameroon. Like many youngsters on the continent, he enjoyed playing soccer with his friends, a sport he still enjoys. But the shift to basketball occurred when one of his coaches saw that his height would be more valuable on the court than the soccer field.

This brought about the opportunity to join the NBA Africa Academy, which had recently opened in Saly, Senegal. Chomche was thrilled to be selected for the academy, as it offered him an opportunity to reach his full potential as a basketball player.

Of course the opportunity to leave home for Senegal initially excited Chomche. He was taking a step to realising his dreams. However, this excitement was tempered by the realisation that he would be leaving his mother as well as his siblings. “Leaving my family to join the NBA academy was a mix of excitement and difficulty because it was my first time leaving my village to go somewhere else and I was very young.”

Fortunately, the weight of the huge decision did not deter him. He promptly continued to work with his two coaches, Jordan Atangana and Goodlove Cham, until he left for the Academy in Senegal. Under their guidance, he developed his skills and honing his game in all aspects in preparation for what was still to come.

The value of international competition

Chomche’s experience at the NBA Academy has been nothing short of transformative. He has had the opportunity to learn from some of the best coaches and trainers in the world, and he has also had the chance to showcase his skills on multiple stages across the continent and abroad.

“Competition in Africa is different,” he said. “The rules are not the same. In Africa we play at a faster pace, as compared to the US where the game is a lot calmer. There is a lot of 1-on-1 or Iso Play in the US whereas in Africa there is a lot more team play. Both have contributed to my growth as a basketball player.”

In addition to his work at the NBA Academy, Chomche has also benefited from his participation in Basketball Without Borders (BWB) camps. At the BWB Global camp in Utah, he had the opportunity to learn from and compete against some of the best young players in the world.

Chomche’s experience in the BAL Elevate Program has been another important step in his development as a basketball player. This past season, he played for the Rwanda Energy Group (REG), which was also the host team of the Playoffs. REG fought hard, but they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by the eventual champions, Egypt’s Al Ahly. However, this outcome did not damper the teen’s spirits too much as he used the games as a litmus test for his abilities.

“It was a great experience, and I learned a lot from those games. For me, it was more about learning how basketball is played at that level and understanding how the skill set that I developed at the academy can transfer into the game with experienced players.”

Chomche’s performance during the BAL season was impressive. He averaged 4.5 points, 1 steal, and 1 block in 19 minutes per game. His performances on the court garnered attention from former NBA star, Joakim Noah. He is also on the radar of some NCAA Division I colleges.

Chomche roaring with the Indomitable Lions

Chomche’s journey is just beginning, but it has already led him back to where it all began: Cameroon. He recently received his second national team call-up for the Olympic Pre-Qualifiers, held in Nigeria in August.

“Representing Cameroon on the stage of the Olympic qualifiers was an incredible honour,” Chomche said. “It was a moment of immense pride for me to wear my country’s jersey. The experience was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking as we faced strong teams, all vying for a spot at the Olympics.”

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Ulrich Chomche playing for the NBA Academy during the BAL Elite 16 Qualifiers. Picture: The BTO

Cameroon punched their ticket to the qualifiers after beating Senegal. Next year (February) in Paris, Chomche and his teammates have to overcome another Olympic qualifying hurdle. It’s a challenge he looks forward to as he is always proud represent the Indomitable Lions.

“Being part of the national team allowed me to showcase my skills at an international level. I have also competed against some of the best basketball players in the world,” Chomche said. “The atmosphere, the pressure, and the sense of national pride were all incredibly motivating.

Cameroon has produced a few big names in the game. So, a path has been set for Chomche to follow. He has a good structural support and with his country rooting for him, it could be a matter of time before Ulrich Chomche ascends to the pinnacle of basketball, the NBA.

“My first ambition is to continue to grow as a player. I am always working with my coaches at the NBA Academy. The work I put in will show every time step on the floor. My big brothers Joel [Embiid], Pascal [Siakam], and [Christian] Koloko have shown us young Cameroonians that it is possible. I believe in hard work and I’m ready to follow in their footsteps and make it to the NBA,” concluded Chomche.

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