KIGALI, Rwanda – Nick Faust was a high school basketball star in Baltimore 13 years ago.

He played in a championship game Saturday more than 7,000 miles from his hometown neighborhood. He represented a pro team from Angola when it won the title game of Basketball Africa League.

Faust said that his upbringing in Baltimore prepared him for the winding path that his basketball career has taken.

“Being in Baltimore, you just got to be a tough kid. I’m not going to lie and say it’s all ice cream and sprinkles,” Faust said. “You’re going to decide, do you want to be in the streets? Or are you going to decide you want to be something in life?”

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

A Top-50 high school player in the country and the top prospect in Maryland, according to 247 Sports, Faust committed to former coach Gary Williams and the University of Maryland.

After a strong freshman season, Faust’s collegiate career fizzled. The NBA never called, and Faust became a basketball nomad, playing professionally in eight countries.

He might have finally found a stable home. Faust is starring in the BAL for Angola’s team, Petro de Luanda. He’s averaging 16 points per game, on 42.3% shooting from three.

Nick Faust, a former University of Maryland basketball player, is starring in the Basketball African League. He’s aiming to win his first professional title. (Alexa Wooten/Capital News Service)

Petro de Luanda defeated Al Ahly Ly Sporting Club, 107-94 in the championship game Saturday. Faust came off the bench, playing 24 minutes, hitting nine of 15 shots and scoring 24 points in the victory.

That would have been unthinkable to him as an 18-year-old. He was a high school star at Baltimore City College, leading the Black Knights to consecutive Maryland Class 2A state titles in 2009 and 2010. He’s no longer the teenager whose only dream was making it to the NBA.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

“Being in high school, if some guy said to me [I’d be playing in Africa], I’d laugh at him,” Faust said.

Faust emerged on the national scene after his junior year of high school. After Williams retired and Mark Turgeon became Maryland’s head coach, Faust said he received calls from then-Kentucky coach John Calapari and then-UConn coach Kevin Ollie. He remained committed to the Terps, though.

That looked like a wise choice after his first season. Faust averaged 8.9 points per game and was selected for the All-ACC freshman team.

His career in College Park never reached expectations, though. Faust transferred to Long Beach State for his final season, before going undrafted by the NBA. It’s something he still thinks about.

“I really didn’t have someone in my back corner telling me what the path of what we could do,” said Faust, whose college career played out before Name Image and Likeness and other some commercial opportunities for college and international pro players.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Faust signed his first professional deal with an Israeli team, Ironi Nahariya, for the 2016–17 season.

That started him on a winding professional career. Faust has signed nine different contracts to play basketball in countries including Taiwan, Italy and Poland.

His stops never lasted longer than three years. Faust said he lives out of a suitcase. The veteran has grown accustomed to the consistent upheaval.

“All I can say is I’m on my third passport,” Faust joked.

For a majority of his career, none of those options included Africa. The continent had limited professional basketball options until the BAL was founded in 2019.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The league was established by the National Basketball Association and the International Basketball Federation. Investors and strategic partners include former President Barack Obama and former Chicago Bulls stars Luol Deng and Joakim Noah propelled the league.

Today the league’s games are broadcast in over 200 countries, and BAL aims to become the premiere international basketball league.

“I never thought that something like the [BAL] could be possible,” Ian Mahimi, a former Washington Wizards player and BAL ambassador, said.

Faust didn’t either. The Baltimore native imagined Africa as a place he would visit as a tourist, envisioning lions and zebras on safaris, not a realistic career option.

But after he and his previous team, Indonesia’s Amartha Hangtuah, agreed to part ways, Faust was searching for options. His agent told him that Petro de Luanda was looking for talent for their playoff run.

The Baltimore Banner thanks its sponsors. Become one.

When he called his father to tell him that he had signed a contract with a team in Angola, the reaction was expected.

“Dad, I’m in Africa,” Faust told his dad.

“Man, you’re out there with lions?” his father responded.

Faust has been with the Angola team for just over two weeks. Still, in his brief time, he has been impressed by the league’s structure and stability, despite being in its early stages.

“The NBA has a 75-year plan,” Pops Mensah-Bonsu, a former NBA player whose parents are from Ghana and who is President of G-League Operations for the New York Knicks. “The [BAL] has to crawl before we can walk. We have to develop something and implement a foundation.”

“This might be the best league I’ve ever played in,” Faust said.

Faust’s career did not pan out the way he envisioned it. No former basketball phenom dreams of bouncing from country to country, never establishing a stable home.

His upbringing in Baltimore, though, prepared him for that life.

Sam Jane is a reporter travelling in Africa with student reporters from the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland. Povich Center journalists are reporting on sport globalization and the growth of basketball on the continent.