Masai Ujiri Rumors

The Nigerian Basketball Federation came calling two springs ago, soon after Will finished a year-long gig with the Shanxi Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association. Among the dozens of players to come and go through Bakersfield were two Nigerian-Americans—6′ 9″ former NBA lottery pick Ike Diogu, and 6′ 11″ Alade Aminu, whose 6′ 9″ younger brother and former Georgia Tech teammate Al-Farouq Aminu is now an emerging star with the Portland Trail Blazers. They both went to the federation to vouch for Will. So did Ujiri, who from watching him work camps knew, as Will puts it, “I wasn’t a totally random white dude.” In May 2015 he assembled D’Tigers, as the team is known back home, only weeks before the AfroBasket in Tunisia, making sure the players sang the Nigerian anthem at their first practice and every one thereafter. “Our goal was to sing it on the podium,” Will says. “In the past it’s been an issue that so many players are based in America, so it was important for the guys to know who they were playing for.”
But even before then, Voigt became friends with Masai Ujiri, the Nigerian-born general manager of the Toronto Raptors. When Ujiri began setting up basketball camps in his native country, Voigt was one of the first volunteers. He worked camps in Xaria, Abuja and Lagos and impressed Ujiri by venturing to smaller cities hours away on his off days. “A lot of people ask a hundred questions,” Ujiri said, “which you’re supposed to do.” Voigt didn’t. “Will was just, like, ‘Let’s go,’” he said. “He’s one of those explorer types.”