Australia’s basketball tree continues to bear fruit, with Chima Moneke becoming the latest Australian to join the NBA after signing a two-year deal with the Sacramento Kings.
“It still doesn’t even feel real to be honest. It’s incredible, everything is just crazy,” Moneke told The Sporting News.
“Life is different now but I’m just looking forward to putting on a jersey and then going from there.”
Moneke’s basketball journey has taken him all over the world, traveling from Australia to the USA for college ball. He’s been to France, Spain and now Sacramento, where the new Kings head coach Mike Brown called to say he’d gotten a contract.
“It was probably in February when my agent said, ‘Listen, the NBA interest is real,'” Moneke said.
“In the Sacramento case, on the day of my Champions League final (May 8), I woke up to a missed call from Mike Brown. He unofficially told me he was going to be the next Kings head coach, and when he knew he was going to get that job, I was the first name that came to his mind.
From playing 3 games in France 2nd division in my rookie season while earning 2200 euros a month… to signing an NBA contract 4 years later… crazy. pic.twitter.com/XtVsuAHv09
— Chima Moneke (@Chimdogg_) July 16, 2022
Brown and Moneke had developed a relationship with the former Golden State Warriors assistant, who serves as the Nigeria national team’s head coach. He called up Moneke for the team’s qualification ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
The 26-year-old was one of the last names to be dropped from the final 12-man squad but after disappointment at missing out at Tokyo he enjoyed a successful season in Spain.
Moneke — a fan favorite who played for Manresa — averaged 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists as he was named Basketball Champions League (BCL) MVP. He led his team to the finals with the man who brought him to Spain, Jordi Fernandez, who is now part of the Kings coaching staff.
“[Mike Brown] Jordi Fernandez who convinced Manresa to take me last season and we probably kept in touch every month while I was over there in Spain,” said Moneke.
“I became an even bigger fan of his than before, and when I knew he was moving to Sacramento, it was like a no-brainer.”
Moneke is ready to power Kings
From his ouster from French second division club Rouen just four years ago to his rise to prominence as a European elite player, Moneke’s basketball journey around the world has taught him not to take anything for granted now that he’s on basketball’s biggest stage.
“The important thing is that I go in there and I’m not satisfied and I deserve whatever I get and when I’ve done that, I can play in my own way like an energizer role and a defensive role or a leadership role,” Moneke said.
At 6-foot-6, Moneke joins the Kings as a player capable of playing and defending multiple positions, drawing comparisons to a certain versatile Warriors big man.
“Obviously (Brown) Draymond has been training for years. That was a name he gave me to do the things he does, so I feel like I can do the things he does my own way.
“It will take time and depending on how well I play in training camp and how easy it is for me to get used to the team and the culture which will help me in my role but nothing is a given. Whatever I get this season will do it because I deserve it and I look forward to it,” continued Moneke.
“[I’m an] Energizer, a dog, someone tough, fun to play with, someone fun to watch, someone who makes their teammates better, someone who makes sacrifices.”
🌏 How playing in Europe prepared him for the NBA
📋 His relationship with Mike Brown
🏀 To be the ultimate energy dude for the kings
— NBA Australia (@NBA_AU) August 9, 2022
Sacramento pushed their chips to the middle of the table last season, trading promising young guard Tyrese Haliburton for Domantas Sabonis. Along with De’Aaron Fox, Davion Mitchell and veteran Harrison Barnes, they are looking to improve on their 30-52 record from last season in the 3.0 games back of the Play-In tournament.
With Kevin Huerter, Malik Monk and Matthew Dellavedova in the offseason, and 2022 NBA draft pick Keegan Murray, the Kings have a goal of ending their 16-year 2022-23 playoff drought.
“I’m excited, honestly. I’ve let a lot of people close to me know that I feel like we can make the playoffs,” said Moneke.
“I’m excited because I’m a guy who doesn’t need the ball to affect the game and we have two big All-Stars who can dominate the game and get their teammates involved. It’s easy for me to play my part and sacrifice myself.
“…I’m excited to go in there and prove a lot of people wrong because the Kings haven’t made the playoffs in a while and every team I’ve ever been on has always been an underdog team at every level, so I’m just excited to go in there and just have a fun team out there in Sacramento.
With the NBA season tip still two months away, Moneke is using his time to get himself in the best possible shape ahead of his first NBA season
“Work six days a week, two workouts a day, Monday through Friday, whether it’s hot yoga and then shooting, or shooting and lifting, or shooting and then skill training. Just a lot of work,” said Moneke.
“Just a lot of work, getting better and feeling good. When I get to training camp I feel good, I’m ready to go because you know the NBA game is a different game. So make sure I use this one for two months to be ready.”