U18 FC Bayern Munich center Desmond Yiamu is playing at the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament Munich less than a year after fleeing his native Ukraine due to the ongoing war. He was living with his parents and older brother in Kharkiv, Ukraine, when Russia launched its invasion last February.
"I thought everything would be okay, but we had to flee,” Yiamu said.
The family left its house in Kharkiv on March 7, 2022, and traveled by train through Hungary to Berlin and then to Munich, where Yiamu’s father’s brother was living.
When asked what he took with him from home, Yiamu said: “Basketball shoes, jerseys and some clothing.”
Now nearly 11 months later, the house where the 16-year-old lived is no longer standing.
Yiamu still has friends back home and remains in contact with them.
"[The war] is horrible and I really hope it stops really soon,” Yiamu said.
Yiamu explained that he and his family do not want to go back to Ukraine. Although Yiamu was born there, his parents both hail from Nigeria and moved to the eastern European country more than 20 years ago to study at the university.
Yiamu is still very new to basketball. After previously playing left back in football, he only started playing basketball in 2019. But he quickly took to the game and rose in the ranks in Ukraine.
Last summer, he played for his homeland at the FIBA U16 European Championship 2022 Division B and averaged 12.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists in his first international competition.
After arriving in Munich, Yiamu went to the Bayern campus in April and contacted the club’s U16 coach and started training with the team. This season he is playing with the U19 team and is averaging 7.7 points and 5.9 rebounds in 20 minutes.
Bayern’s coaches included Yiamu in the roster for the ANGT Munich, and he has peaked a lot of interest with his strong play as one of the team's top players with 10.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals through Bayern's first three games.
“I like playing in this competition because there are a lot of good players, and it’s a good chance to watch other good players and good teams,” Yiamu said.
The big man prospect admitted that he had never heard of the ANGT while in Ukraine but he had high hopes in basketball: “I always wanted to be a professional player from when I started."
That was back in 2019 when Desmond Yiamu’s world was still in order.