The story of a basketball journeyman caught up in the civil war in Libya.
Born in Nigeria, where he began shooting hoops into a milk crate nailed to a tree at age 6, Owumi came to the United States with his parents at age 11. Though he played solid basketball at Alcorn State, a small black college in Mississippi, Owumi went undrafted in the 2008 NBA draft. Faced with a choice between playing in the NBA minor league or with better-paying overseas teams, he embarked on an adventure that brought him from playing for French, Macedonian and other teams to his 2010 acceptance of an offer to join a Libyan team funded by the family of President Moammar Gadhafi. More than half the book traces the scrappy Owumi’s early life (his grandfather was a village chief), his early days bouncing around among community college basketball teams, and his satisfying two seasons at Alcorn State, where he finally learned “the harsh lesson of life after college basketball: You are where you played.” Although Paisner (Chasing Perfect: The Will to Win in Basketball and Life, 2013, etc.) foreshadows the coming Libyan crisis nicely, the early pages are overblown and less than exciting. Finally, Owumi arrived in Benghazi, where he lived in a penthouse apartment owned by Gadhafi’s son and learned he was expected to play winning ball or be beaten. Play had hardly begun when the violence erupted outside his window. Frightened and without food, water or phone service, Owumi remained trapped in his apartment for two weeks, surviving by eating cockroaches and worms. The scenes of violence outside his door and in the streets are rendered vividly, and readers will cheer his eventual escape to Egypt, where Owumi joined yet another basketball team and won an MVP award.
Well-written but with the feel of a magazine article masquerading as a book.