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River Lions’ Muldrow travelled the world for basketball, but feels settled in Canada

Sam Muldrow’s passport is almost as full as his stat sheet.

With a professional career spanning nearly a decade, there are few countries where he hasn’t made his presence felt. In Greece, he averaged 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game, becoming the Greek Basket League’s leader in blocks.

His final year with the University of South Carolina Gamecocks earned him SEC Defensive Player of the Year, beating out superstar names like DeMarcus Cousins and Tobias Harris.

Muldrow’s athletic abilities have awarded him the opportunity to travel across the globe doing what he loves, but for the past 4 years, it has been Canada that he has called home.

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It was never his intention to make a life in Canada. A quick stop, perhaps, on his way to his next destination, but the allure of the Great White North was immediately evident as he touched the tarmac from his most recent stint in Germany.

Niagara by way of Germany

The opportunity to play for the Niagara River Lions did not come courtesy of a scout or agent, but from an opponent in the Basketball Bundesliga ProA league.

Logan Stutz, the NBL’s reigning MVP at the time, first took notice of Muldrow’s talent while finding himself on the receiving end of the big man’s defensive artistry.

Block-by-block and steal-by-steal, Stutz — however frustrated by Muldrow’s presence — knew one thing: he was playing against the best, and he wanted to play alongside the best.

A few conversations and a plane ticket later, and Big Sam — as he is affectionately known to teammates and fans alike — was on his way to Niagara to start what would become his new life. 

“I played against [Stutz] in Germany and he recommended me to the Niagara River Lions. They gave me a shot and that’s how I ended up on the team,” Muldrow said.

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The River Lions always felt like home to the power forward. While treated well by every team he had played for thus far, the sense of familiarity he felt with Niagara was a sensation he had yet to experience as a professional.

“It’s a great organization. They treated me real nice since the first day I got here and I just kind of fell in love,” he said.

Gone were the days of struggling to learn a new language, only to have to learn another one a season later. He didn’t have to worry about the spiders in Australia, adjusting instead to Canadian rules of the road and one dollar coins.

Muldrow bought into the River Lions as both a team and organization. Even after Stutz moved on the following season, Sam remained.

Mutually beneficial relationship

The strength of the relationship between Muldrow and the Niagara River Lions is not one sided. When making the transition from the NBL Canada to the CEBL, president Jeffrey Sotiriou insisted Muldrow be present for the meetings.

“One of the guys who worked for the team brought me into the office with Jeff [Sotiriou] during the NBL, before there even was a CEBL, and asked for my opinion on a summer league,” Muldrow said. “[He] asked if I thought guys would play [for the team] during the summer and I was like ‘yeah! A lot of guys would … the rest was history after that.”

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Whether by way of his southern charm or what he can do on the court, Sotiriou and the River Lions recognized that Muldrow is the embodiment of their franchise: powerful, courageous, strong and proud.

Muldrow’s goal for the 2020 Summer Series echoes that of every other player in the league: to win the championship. The difference being that for Muldrow and Niagara, it is a goal years in the making.

Hoisting the trophy just once isn’t good enough for Muldrow, though. His intention past this unprecedented season is to remain in Canada long term.

No longer will he need to contort his six-foot-nine frame into an airplane seat for upwards of 12 hours to return to South Carolina to visit his eight-year-old daughter, Jayla.

“I’m close to home,” Muldrow said. “My daughter was born in 2011, so playing in Canada gives me more opportunity see her.”

There is now an opportunity for family and friends to watch his games, and though Canadian winters are more harsh than those of the south, they aren’t something he hasn’t already adjusted to.

Muldrow has found his home in Niagara.

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