Calgary Surge forward Deon Ejim is the latest member of his family to play professional basketball.
Born August 18, 1999, in Brampton, Ontario, Deon Ejim is a professional basketball player for the Calgary Surge, playing in the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL).
Ejim comes from a long line of basketball players, as many members of his family have played the sport professionally. However, Ejim says that he first picked up the ball because of his Uncle David.
“My uncle went into division two college basketball when he was younger, playing in New Mexico. He then got a few of my brothers into it, starting with my brother Melvin, then Ryan, Kenny, and finally me,” he said.
“After that, I trained as much as I could. I would go to the gym any time it was available, but I mostly played outside. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so me and my brothers were always outside playing.”
As time went on, Deon’s brother Melvin ended up joining the National Men’s basketball team as a small forward.
Once this happened, Deon was determined to follow a similar path.
“Once he was in the team, I felt like my path was set in stone. Me and my other brothers wanted to go to school, so we worked super hard to get scholarships so we could attend. We didn’t want our dreams to be a financial burden to our mother,” he said.
“My uncle and my two older brothers really helped mold me into the player I am today. What’s funny is that my little sister also got into basketball, so it really seems to run in the family.”
Yvonne Ejim, Deon’s younger sister, attended Calgary’s Edge School. She then went on to play for Team Alberta and now plays as a forward for the National Women’s basketball team.
Yvonne also competed in last year’s women’s March Madness for Gonzaga.
Playing across North America
When he hit grade 11, Deon decided to go to TRC Academy, a prep school located in Brantford, Ontario. After graduating, Deon got multiple offers from various universities and eventually decided to play for the University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC) in 2018.
“When I went to UIC, I actually tore my ACL in my first year there, which really sucked. I couldn’t really play until my second year, in which we lost in the conference finals, so we couldn’t play in the National Collegiate Athletics Association tournament,” he said.
“My coach got fired, and we lost to Kentucky again, so I was honestly considering transferring schools for a fresh start. Eventually, I decided to stay for the next year, which was 2020. I injured myself again after 2 games, and the remaining 10 were canceled due to the pandemic.”
Deon ended up transferring to Lewis University outside of Chicago and played under the guidance of his old coach from UIC.
Dealing with tragedy
However, on February 14, 2022, tragedy struck the Ejim family. Kenny Ejim, died in Manama, Bahrain while playing with Al-Najma in the Bahraini Premier League.
“After losing him, I came back home. I kept trying to play but it wasn’t the same. I finished the year off, but we didn’t win the conference that year either,” he said.
“After everything, I just wanted to go back home to Canada and just play basketball.”
Deon returned home to join St. Francis Xavier University (SFX), under the guidance of another former coach.
“I think coming back home was the best decision of my life. A year after I joined SFX, I ended up getting chosen in the draft for the Calgary Surge,” he said.
“Since then, it’s been history. I started off in Canada, and after this big learning experience, I ended up back here.”
Even after a few more injuries, Deon finally made his way back to the court.
“Once I was able to get back into it, I was ecstatic. I’m so thankful to be playing in the CEBL here in Calgary. Every time I step on the court, I’m thankful,” he said.
“I do have a chip on my shoulder every time I play. I always pray for my older brother, he was like my best friend. We played together, trained together, and grew up together. Not having him around anymore hurts. I know he really wanted me to play basketball, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
Much like his younger brother, Kenny also played in the CEBL, playing for the Hamilton Honey Badgers and the Saskatchewan Rattlers.
“We had tons of talks about playing together in the same league one day, with all of my brothers included. Now that he’s not here, I know to never take what I do for granted,” he said.
“I play hard for my family who lives here in Calgary. I’m grateful to be where I’m at in my life, and I want to keep this going.”