Jason Ani was heading to the United States after securing a move to top prep outfit Hillcrest in Arizona after ending his junior career with Manchester Magic.
But visa issues amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic meant the former Loreto Sixth Form College and St Peter’s RC High School student chose Europe instead.
And after a successful workout with Bayern, the 6ft 4in guard, a key member of Magic’s EABL and Senior Men programmes, will spend this season playing Pro B and U19 basketball for the club.
How did the move to Bayern come about?
JA: “Playing in Germany, my home country, had always been at the back of my mind, but I never really took it seriously until late September, when I wasn’t being granted a visa to fly to the United States. I had a team-mate I played AAU with in the States who had played in Germany. One day, I just texted him and asked if he could reach out to some teams for me. He gave my highlights to his coach who knew a few coaches in Germany. Around two days later, I got a phone call in the morning from Bayern, asking me to trial and that they were interested.”
What are your first impressions of the club?
JA: “When I first got to Bayern, my mind was blown. Their facilities are, in my opinion, NBA-level. They had everything. Even the younger players are treated like professionals. They really take it seriously and that’s what helped make my mind up. I felt like Bayern could get me to the level I need to be at to reach my full potential.”
How tough was it to turn down Hillcrest?
JA: “It was very tough. I’m not great at having tough conversations with people. It stressed me out at first because I really wanted to go there and it was already all over social media that I was going to the US. After thinking it through, the best option was definitely Bayern.”
What are your goals with Bayern?
JA: “After this year, I am going to evaluate my options. I love it here but, really and truly, my first goal is to play Division 1 basketball in the States. If I get the opportunity to play at a programme that’s big enough to be on the level of Bayern, then I may consider it. If not, then I will turn pro and hopefully continue playing at Bayern.”
Which Magic players are you still in contact with?
JA: “I talk to a few guys from my team, especially the ones who are in the States, like Saul (May) and Luke (Gordos). I always want to know how things are going. I also keep in touch with the younger players in the current Magic U18 squad as they’ve known me from a young age. They ask me for advice a lot and I’m always there to help out because I relied on older players, like Kaiyem (Cleary) and Mike (Anumba). They taught me things and helped out a lot.”
Good luck at Bayern, Jason. We’ll be following your progress.