Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, who was recently named a finalist for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, is focused on helping his team make its first Finals appearance in franchise history. Off the court, however, he is hoping to make his long-awaited return to Cameroon this offseason to finally pay respects to his late father, Tchamo Siakam, who died in a car accident in 2014. “It would be a mix of emotions,” Siakam told The Undefeated. “Excited to go back because we miss it, but also nervous because we don’t know what to expect and how people are going to respond.”
Siakam lost his father when he was a freshman at New Mexico State in October 2014. He received the news from his sister, Raissa, who called him sobbing. While he yearned to go home for his father’s funeral in Cameroon, visa issues would have likely prevented him from returning to the United States. So Siakam decided to stay in school. “That was tough, one of the hardest moments of my life,” Siakam said. “But I felt that I had a bigger purpose and I was doing the right thing. But it was heartbreaking. … My father means everything to me. Growing up he was always an example and made me the man I am today. He is the reason I play the game of basketball. He taught me to always be kind to people and help others.”
Since high school, Nassir Little has studied Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Both stars drastically improved their shot after entering the NBA. Leonard shot 25.0 percent from three in college, but he’s made 38.3 percent of his deep attempts during his NBA career. George shot 29.7 percent from deep as a rookie, but he’s made 38.8 percent of his threes over the past five seasons. Little hopes to have a similar turnaround, but he also models his game after Leonard and George because they’re so well-rounded. “I watch those guys a lot,” Little said. “With Paul George, I like the way he handles the ball at his size, his craftiness and his ability to score in many different ways. The same can be said for Kawhi Leonard as well. I think Kawhi has improved his ball-handling a lot during his time in the league and he can score in a variety of ways too, whether it’s hitting shots from outside or getting inside. And I really like the way he plays defense. I think they’re both great defensive players.”