BCL legend Ejim adds FIBA World Cup medal to already impressive CV
MIES (Switzerland) - He was a part of the inaugural Basketball Champions League Star Lineup in 2017, and he made his way back to the Final Four with Unicaja in 2023. Now, Melvin Ejim has a FIBA Basketball World Cup medal.
In a team filled with NBA stars and role players, coach Jordi Fernandez knew he needed more international experience to guide Canada towards their goal at FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
Canada posing after their Third-Place Game win over Team USA at the FIBA Basketball World Cup
That's why he put a lot of trust in the 32-year-old Unicaja forward. Ejim was one of only three non-NBA players in the Third Place Game against the United States, an overtime thriller finishing 127-118, which got Canada their first ever podium place finish in World Cup history.
"This medal is just a representation of all the work we put in over the years, how many people committed to the program, how many people have sacrificed to be a part of it and to get us to this point. It's great to be here, but we want more," Ejim said after playing seven minutes and scoring 3 points, with 4 rebounds and 2 assists on the last day of competition.
Immediately after that game on September 10, Ejim traveled from the Philippines home to North America, and already on September 12 he was on his way back to Spain, because Unicaja have the Spanish Supercup coming up this weekend.
Ejim won't be tired in that locker room, though. After a year of listening to his Spanish teammates brag about winning FIBA EuroBasket 2022, now he's the one with the bragging rights at Unicaja.
"Definitely! Dario [Brizuela] is not there anymore so I won't be able to say anything to him until I see him in Barcelona, but Alberto [Diaz] will hear a little bit about it for a while," the Canadian said with a big smile, serving as an exclamation point.
The fact that Canada went through Spain on their way to the podium only makes it sweeter for Ejim and his compatriots. Not because they defeated Spain, but because there is no better confirmation that you belong to the top than the fact you outlasted the then still defending FIBA World Cup champions and the still reigning FIBA EuroBasket title holders.
"Spain's a great team. The fact that we were able to play that level where we compete with them and even beat them, it shows how talented they are and how far we've come. I've got a lot of appreciation and respect for all the Spanish players and the Liga Endesa, that's why I hope that I'll be playing there for a long time," he said.
Ejim played for Umana Reyer Venezia back in the first season of the Basketball Champions League, earning his spot in the ideal five of the season, alongside Jordan Theodore, Zack Wright, Aaron Doornekamp and Georgios Bogris in that Star Lineup.
He went on to win the Italian League a month later, earning the Finals MVP award, and he also went double-double in 2021 and 2022, winning the double crowns with Buducnost in Montenegro and Cedevita Olimpija in Slovenia.
The trip back to Unicaja saw him win the Copa del Rey last season, and reach the Final Four of the BCL. He made winning and reaching final fours a habit, but could he use this medal as the head start to keep on collecting trophies in 2023-24, too?
"I don't know, we'll see. But I'm just excited to be here, and fortunate to be a part of some good teams, to have a good role and impact on these teams, just gotta continue doing it."