BY Ismail Akwei, 1:16pm January 07, 2018,

Ex-US college basketball star bounces back in Baghdad with Iraqi citizenship

DeMario Mayfield playing for the Iraqi national team -- Photo: NBC News

For every upcoming basketball player, the dream is to play in the NBA. But for 26-year-old former college basketball star from Georgia, DeMario Mayfield, he has no option but to play for Iraq to get his career back on track after serving a sentence in 2013 for firearm possession.

The 6 foot 5 inch former player of the University of North Carolina and the University of Georgia responded to a call-up to Baghdad’s Oil Club following months of being clubless after finishing a 10-month work-release programme.

Mayfield joined the club in 2015 and “it has been nothing but love since the day I arrived,” he is quoted by AFP.

“I had friends in this league before I came. They persuaded me to come here. We did a lot of talking before coming. I was very scared at first… seeing everything on the media,” he added.

Mayfield has made a name for himself in Iraq after leading his team to win the national championship and winning the best professional player n the league last year. This got the Iraqi national team to offer him a place in the struggling team that hopes to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.

“We asked the Iraqi government to give DeMario a passport so that he could join Iraq’s team,” Iraqi national basketball federation secretary Khaled Najm told AFP.

“I will forever be grateful for the opportunity that I have had presented to me. It has been nothing but love since the day I arrived … I’m basically an Iraqi, an American Iraqi,” Mayfield said.

With his new compatriots, the 26-year-old has been making an impact in the qualification with key victories.

Mayfield said he is happy despite living in a hotel since he arrived due to the security concerns in the country where suicide bomb attacks are rampant. He also left behind his family and son in the United States to keep them out of harm’s way.

“My journey with the Iraqi team has been something special. It’s been one heck of a ride, but I’m enjoying it,” he said.

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: June 19, 2018

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