|Chima Moneke joins The Crossover
The Baskonia big man joins forces with Joe Arlauckas to discuss Moneke’s career and learn about the self-confidence that led him to where he is today.
|Chima Moneke’s career has been anything but linear. Several times he has been knocked back just as he thought he was about to break through. And this season he has finally reached new heights as one of the top performers in the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague with Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz.
With all the attention surrounding Baskonia and Moneke, one might have thought he would be a tough guest for Joe Arlauckas to book, but the truth is that Moneke is a long-time fan of The Crossover!
[1:00] “It means a lot because I’ve been watching and listening to your show for years and it feels… It makes me feel like I’ve been doing something right that I’m here. So I appreciate that,” Moneke tells Arlauckas in the opening segment.
Quickly they dive into Moneke’s backstory. Born in Nigeria and raised in Australia as the child of diplomats, Moneke at one point did not see either of his parents for nearly a decade as he chased his basketball dream.
He faced rejection at the youth level in Australia, had trouble finding a college in America and was cut from his first professional team in the second league in France. But none of those blows were enough to cause Moneke to doubt himself.
[15:20] “There were times where I questioned myself. It just didn’t seem realistic to other people. I think a lot of my life has been unrealistic to a lot of other people but for some reason, I kept believing… I kept persevering and eventually I got to where I always knew I would get to,” he explains.
Moneke credits his Nigerian roots for some of that confidence, explaining that those from his country are known for their stubbornness, smarts and passion for what they believe in.
[17:25] “When I set my mind to something, I don’t really care how it happens. I just know that that’s what I ultimately want to do. And all the times where I questioned myself as a player, it didn’t change the fact that I didn’t have a Plan B. I had a Plan A the whole time, Moneke adds “I think if I had a Plan B, whenever it got hard, like the times when schools weren’t responding to my emails, I would’ve been like, ‘okay, maybe they are right. Let me go to Plan B.’ Nah. I never had that.”
And so Moneke persevered. Two strong seasons in France led to an opportunity in Spain with Manresa, where Moneke really made a name for himself and earned all-league honors in both the ACB and the Basketball Champions League. Then, Mike Brown, who had coached Moneke on the Nigerian national team, brought the big man with him when he was hired to coach the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.
After a spell there, Moneke was released and joined AS Monaco in the middle of last season and reached the EuroLeague Final Four. Over the summer, he came back to Spain with Baskonia and has emerged as one of the top performers in the EuroLeague this season.
[52:00] “I have visualized this for so long. I have told myself and other people that I am one of the best players in Europe. I will stand on that. But you just get tired of telling everyone else that. I like being told by other people now that ‘you’re one of the best players in Europe.’ It just confirms to me again that everything that I am, everything that I worked for pays off.”
All along, Moneke continues to love the game and play with a smile, whether other people like it or not. In fact, he told Arlauckas about the one time he tried to play with a scowl and how it went:
[1:03:45] “It happened this season. There was a lot of talk about ‘this guy, he smiles too much and he’s interacting with the fans too much and he’s never serious.’ And they said, ‘if he was blah, blah, blah. He would be better.’ And then the game against Fenerbahce at home, I was like, I’m not gonna smile at all. And I was terrible. We ended up winning, but I was horrible. I didn’t have fun. I wasn’t a good teammate because I was focused on not smiling and making sure that I didn’t have fun.
“But then my brothers called me and said you better not ever do that again. They’re in Australia waking up at 4 a.m., 6 a.m. to watch me be me. And watch me be an extension of themselves. And they know me and they could tell something was wrong. And as soon as I said, ‘yeah, man. I’ve been hearing this chatter.’ They said ‘Eff that. You better never let them get to you ever again.”
With a one-hour format of exclusive one-on-one interviews, The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas goes well beyond the playing court with each podcast to delve into the life experiences that have made his guests protagonists and legends of the EuroLeague. The Crossover debuted in 2018 and has featured such current stars as Mike James, Lorenzo Brown and Mario Hezonja; coaching greats such as Georgios Bartzokas, Dimitris Itoudis, and Zeljko Obradovic, and legends like Theo Papaloukas, Nikola Vujcic and Mike Batiste, among others. Moneke is the fourth guest this season after Nigel Hayes-Davis, Kemba Walker and James Nunnally.
The Crossover with Joe Arlauckas is available on Youtube, iTunes, Spotify, Deezer, RadioPublic, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher, CastBox, iVoox and other platforms.