Before she became the first Cameroon player to appear in the WNBA, Dulcy Fankam Mendijadeu was hesitant about the sport all together.
The 6-foot-4 center was 14 years old when she picked up her first basketball. As one of the taller girls in her city, naturally she excelled on her high school’s women’s team, a relaxed and noncompetitive environment.
As one of the tallest girls in Nkongsamba, Cameroon, Fankam Mendjiadeu’s dad urged the rookie to use her height to her advantage to achieve success in the sport.
Off the court, Fankam Mendjiadeu was often mocked about her height by her peers, and she worried that continuing to play basketball would exacerbate the taunting. After thoughtful consideration with her family, she decided to stand tall and give it a shot.
“I was insecure and really shy,” Fankam Mendjiadeu said. “Once I gave it a try and started playing, I wasn’t any more and was much more relaxed. I learned how to express myself and I became more extroverted on and off the floor.”
The reserved rookie valued the physical and mental attributes that she gained from basketball and decided to stick with it throughout high school.
All it took was one person to recognize Fankam Mendjiadeu’s talent, and for her to rethink basketball as a potential career.
While competing against the other teams in the surrounding cities of Nkongsamba, another coach approached Fankam Mendjiadeu about joining his nonprofessional team over the summer.
“He told me about his team and said that I was great, and he could help me become an even greater player,” Fankam Mendjiadeu said. “I went to play with his amateur team over the summer and we stayed in contact. After high school he guided me, and we remained in touch as I began at university in a different city.”
The pieces began to fall into place once Fankam Mendjiadeu was recruited to play in a training camp for the national team. While leading Cameroon to the 2021 FIBA AfroBasket semifinals, she befriended a former Memphis Tiger who posed the idea of hoops in the United States.
With the help of her teammate, the Cameroon native was recruited to play at Walters State, thus igniting her collegiate career in the U.S.
First time in the states
Fankam Mendijadeu attended three different universities. Beginning at Walters State, stopping at Memphis for two years and then capping off her collegiate career with two standout seasons at University of South Florida.
The rookie made great strides her first year, being named an All-American to the junior college second team and logging 15.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game the 2018-19 season.
The following year, Fankam Mendjiadeu made her division I debut, leading the Tigers in rebounds and blocks. She wrapped up her collegiate career at USF, dominating the floor at the five spot for two final seasons. The starting center earned the American Athletic Conference Co-Player of the Year award and was named to the AAC all-conference first team, among other honors.
Upon her arrival at USF, Fankam Mendjiadeu began following the WNBA and set her sights on success in the 2023 WNBA draft.
“I never ever in my dreams thought I would be where I am right now,” Fankam Mendjiadeu said. “I didn’t know about the WNBA or the level of the NCAA here in America.”
Not only was the Cameroon native accustomed to moving around, but she had anticipated it. Fankam Mendjiadeu’s parents encouraged her to make a career for herself outside of Cameroon if given the option. Basketball served as that window of opportunity.
“In our country because we don’t have the greatest economy, most young people dream about leaving the country,” Fankam Mendjiadeu said. “Growing up, we are already prepared for having to leave to make a life for ourselves elsewhere.”
Fankam Mendjiadeu’s driving force is her family. They motivate her to reach her full potential and continue to forge her own path in the WNBA. The rookie credits her family for her success and strives to support them as she rises in the league.
“My motivation is my family,” Fankam Mendijadeu said. “When I got drafted, my family was just so happy. That happiness that I get from them, it fills me. I want to make them happy and proud because they have really struggled in life. When I think about that it makes me relentless, and I will do whatever it takes to help them and make it happen for them.”
Off the court
With her delayed start to the sport, Fankam Mendijadeu had plenty of time to pick up other hobbies and pastimes. That being said, the rookie thrives when it comes to mathematics.
When she’s not in the gym, Fankam Mendjiadeu can be found working towards her master’s degree in finance online at South Florida. The center is the only current Storm player to have studied something in the STEM-related field at her university, earning an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of Memphis.
The Cameroon native is honored to be the first to debut in the WNBA and plans to continue to make her home country proud as she advances in the league.
“If it wasn’t for my family I wouldn’t be here today,” Fankam Mendjiadeu said. “The team is my family too. When I’m on the bench or on the floor, I will do whatever it takes to achieve that same goal we have together.”