BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Charles Bassey came out of nowhere Friday in the International Game at the Jordan Brand Classic, grabbing a rebound and following through with a slam in one fluid motion. The play was indicative of the 16-year-old’s rise, in just a few years from being discovered in the most unlikely of places, by the side of the road in Nigeria.
“A coach in Nigeria discovered me when I was 12,” Bassey said. “I was selling chickens. The coach told me to start playing (basketball), that I had potential. I was 6-1 when I was 12.”
Since then, he’s grown nine inches and the former soccer midfielder found his true sport.
Bassey, who was a freshman this past year at St. Anthony (San Antonio) had 14 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Black team to an 85-73 win Friday after going scoreless in the first quarter in the International game at the Jordan Brand Classic. The Black team, tied with White at the half at 41, pulled away in the second half.
Bassey was too young to have seen fellow Nigerian Hakeem Olajuwon play in the NBA, but met the former Rocket at one of John Lucas’s camps.
“I met him and he told me I have potential,” Bassey said. “He didn’t practice with me, just talked to me.”
Bassey said he had no idea what colleges have shown an interest, though he’s a big fan of how Texas A&M plays.
The West team was led by Canadian guard R.J. Barrett with 22 points and eight rebounds. He said he’s still working on getting fellow Canadian Andrew Nembard to play with him at Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) next season. Nembhard led the Black team with three assists and had 11 points.
“That’s my boy,” Barrett said. “He never stops ceasing to amaze me. When we were in the game, I could just tell what he was going to do. The chemistry’s real good. We’re roommates right now.”
Barrett said he frequently texts Nembhard about joining him at Montverde.
“I think we could be really good,” Barrett said. “We were struggling at the guard spot this year, including myself. He could come in and glue everything together.”
Contributing: Joe DePaolo