A year back at home has been an unexpected treat for Teddy Okereafor.

Maybe not one he envisaged 12 months ago before Covid threw the world the ultimate curve ball.

At 28, and with a solid rep established in prime leagues such as Italy’s LegaBasket and Greece’s A in his CV, signing for Bristol Flyers was undoubtedly a simpler option than navigating a pandemic overseas.

But the Great Britain point guard has sought to peer ahead at his future. Building contacts. Boosting his profile through a regular column in the preferred newspaper of the proletariat, The Morning Star. Seeing what is out there, even in lockdown.

“New opportunities present themselves,” the Londoner confirms. “So to have an experience and then be able to talk about the BBL and shine light on it and bring people more people to it is a good thing.

“And that’s what the year has been about for me, off the court.”

He will get an advance insight into his 2022 when Great Britain learn their fate for the EuroBasket finals on Thursday when the draw takes place in Munich.

“I don’t mind. the way we’re playing now is great,” he said. “I like the guys on the team and the chemistry from the core group of guys being together for a long time. Bringing everyone back, we’re on the same page. We’ve shifted the narrative to winning games and it’s expected of us, rather than losing.

“We’ll have had another year together to build that core group. If we bring new guys, we want to bring them in as early as possible. And we want to qualify for the World Cup so we have both EuroBasket and those qualifiers to target.”

His initial spell in his domestic league has marked another step in a welcome reversal of the talent drain. Who, in an ideal world, would not want to see a pristine talent like Okereafor competing in his homeland rather than exiled overseas?

Conditioned to hoops elsewhere, his taste of the motherlode has opened his eyes too.

“It’s faster than I expected,” he admits. “I’m still adjusting to even though it’s late in the season, but we’ve got good talent.”

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Bristol would love to keep him. A pass-first point guard will always slot seamlessly into a niche in any league. His consistency has stood out among the Flyers’ difficulties in achieving that very quality. Team-mates, first in his line of sight.

“That’s how I’ve always played,” he outlines.

“So it’s transferable in any kind of league. So that’s just what I’m doing. And then it’s just helping other guys and using experience to put us in the best situation to win.”

The Playoffs beckon, with the Flyers sneaking in to earn a quarter-final match-up with Leicester Riders next week. But would he remain next term, in Bristol or London or Plymouth, or somewhere providing an offer attractive enough to keep one of our best in the UK?

Some may struggle to get work in a post-Brexit landscape where free movement – or a lack of – will reduce opportunities within the EU.

Not Okereafor though, who does the little things so well with an approach beloved of coaches and recruiters.

Being close to his brothers and sisters here has been a boon, he concedes. Once the campaign is done, he will assess the options as they arise, at home and abroad. “Talking to my family, get their opinions and then think and then see what situation makes the most sense.”

But has the BBL improved enough to magnetise our finest and beckon them back for good? A simpler sell when investment has allowed some teams to offer attractive wage packages. Regrettably there is, perhaps, still not enough of those for all who would like to return.

“I know finance is a big thing for certain people at different stages in their lives,” Okereafor adds. “Some people have families.

“But I don’t know if people have got the full experience of playing in the league. For me personally, I haven’t looked at it like a negative or tried to look down on it.

“I’ve tried to just make the best of the opportunity and play with new guys and new players. So it’s been fun for me.

“I don’t know how many guys would come back soon but I think it’s an option and it’s a realistic one.”

Watch the EuroBasket draw from 12pm on Thursday on MVP.

Pic: Mansoor Ahmed

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