Petro de Luanda’s shooting keeper Carlos Morais has spent half his 36-year-old life in professional baskets, more successfully than most African basketball players, but looks back on early decisions from career with a twinge of heart.
The Angola international and Olympian, who plays for Petro at the BAL in Cairo this month, has enjoyed many career highlights, including playing for his country at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and signing with the Raptors of Toronto in 2013. He was waived in October of that year after signing an unsecured contract just five weeks earlier.
According to Morais, this might not have been his only NBA experience had he not rushed home to further his professional career with Petro. If he had stayed in the American school system at Community Christian School in Stockbridge, Georgia, and made a name for himself in the college ranks, who knows what might have happened, he wondered.
“I was invited to go to college in the United States. I went to the United States, I didn’t know any English. I went to high school for seven months, and after that things didn’t work out. didn’t go as planned in school and education,” Morais told ESPN.
“A team came to get me and offered me a lot of money and I decided to take it and play professional basketball. Maybe if I had someone by my side [as a mentor]I would have stayed there and tried again.
“Maybe by now I would have been in the NBA. Who knows?”
However, his brief run with the Raptors, who signed him away from Petro, was not wasted. He learned invaluable lessons from his teammates that helped him prolong his career and stay on top of his game.
He explained: “I remember Demar DeRozan had a crazy routine. His time to practice was midnight and I usually sleep at midnight.
“For me, it was an apprenticeship. If you want to reach their level, you have to do things that other people think are crazy, but you still have to do it if you want to reach the highest level.”
This hard graft approach worked for Morais in the years that followed, and even now, at an age that would often be the twilight of a sporting career, he is highly regarded.
Zamalek coach Will Voigt, who has known Morais since he was Angola coach, told ESPN: “Carlos is still one of the best players in Africa.
“I was joking with him that he didn’t age at all, which the Angolan players kind of understood.”
Looking at Morais’ youthful appearance, it is worth remembering that he won the Afrobasket tournament with Angola four times, the first in 2005 at the age of 20, and is one of the few BAL players to have Olympic experience.
Those 20 days in Beijing still light up his face when asked, and although Angola went winless in five games in a group that included the United States, Spain and Greece, Morais loved it.
He said: “Walking around the village you know that every athlete is one of the greatest.
“I remember seeing Kobe, for example, and Rafael Nadal from tennis and Lionel Messi from football.
“I think we were there in Beijing for 20 days, and for 20 days I felt like Lionel Messi and I were on the same level. It was a great experience, a lifetime experience.”
However, as Professor Dumbledore told Harry Potter, one shouldn’t dwell on the past and forget to live in the present, and Morais has a lot to look forward to from the Nile Conference in Cairo, where Petro is considered as one of the favorites.
The Angolan champions finished third overall last year, behind Egypt’s Zamalek and Tunisia’s US Monastir. This time, he feels they are in a better position to compete for the BAL title.
“We had a new coaching staff and the way they [coach José Neto] was trying to get us to play was hard to follow for us at the time, but now I think we’re on the same page,” Morais said.
“I think we have all the pieces. We don’t have our full roster; we have a few guys who have fallen [injured] two weeks ago, but I think the young guys will step up when the time comes and it will be fine.”
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The stability within Petro’s team may be their greatest advantage. While Zamalek has brought in stars Ike Diogu, Mikh McKinney and DJ Strawberry to complement Edgar Sosa, who was already at the club when the trio arrived, Petro relies almost exclusively on Angolan players – many of whom were with them last year .
“Petro is a great organization. As Angolans, we all want to play and win for Petro. I believe that’s one of the reasons why we came back this year. For those in Angola, we have this great goal, which is to try to win it all,” Morais said.
“We have two new players and one of them [Yanick Moreira] is Angolan. We know each other’s families and wives, so for him it’s easy to adapt.
“We have another guy from Cape Verde [Anderson Correia]. He’s a nice guy, so it’s easy for him to adapt. I think we are lucky to be able to keep our group united and strong. We don’t have foreigners, if that makes sense.”
BAL’s Nile stage features three rookie teams out of the six, but according to Morais, Petro is preparing for all his opponents and taking everyone seriously.
He concluded: “We have quite a good coaching staff and they have scouted the teams that we are going to face here, as well as the teams that we could face in the next phase in Rwanda, because we believe that we’re going to be there too.
“They’ve been watching them for a long time, so I think we’ll be ready when the time comes.”
The top four teams from the Nile Conference will advance to the qualifiers and finals in Kigali, Rwanda, May 21-28, joining the four teams that already left the Sahara Conference in March.