AS Sale guard Terrell Stoglin has decried the presence of rapper J. Cole at the Basketball Africa League (BAL), telling ESPN that the musician's time on the court is "disrespectful" to those who worked hard for years to get this chance.
Despite the commercial value and media attention that Cole has brought to the NBA-affiliated BAL, the rapper's late inclusion on the Patriots' roster has left a bitter taste in the mouth of the former Maryland player.
Stoglin, who became the first player to score 40 points in a BAL fixture when he inspired Salé's 88-79 comeback win over AS Police, averages 31 points per game at the tournament.
Cole, who was a walk-on player at St. John's University prior to his rise to fame as a rapper, scored five points in three group games for the Rwandan side.
"I think there's a negative and a positive [to J. Cole's presence]," Stoglin told ESPN. "The negative part of it is: I think he took someone's job that deserves it.
"I live in a basketball world. I don't live in a fan world. I know a lot of guys that had their careers stopped by COVID and they're still home working out and training for an opportunity like this.
"For a guy who has so much money and has another career to just come here and average, like, one point a game and still get glorified is very disrespectful to the game. It's disrespectful to the ones who sacrificed their whole lives for this.
"The positive side of it is: it brings a lot of attention, and, I guess, money. I don't really pay attention to that type of stuff. I'm more [concerned that] he took someone's job that deserved it."
Haydee Ndayishimiye, the Patriots' chief operations officer, told ESPN that Cole's inclusion was for basketball reasons, adding that the proof was in the pudding as the Patriots were among the teams who will join Sale in the eight-team playoffs.
"Of course, someone as famous as him will bring a lot of attention, but one thing the BAL, Patriots BBC and his team have committed to do is to treat him like any other player," she told ESPN.
"He's a great basketball player and wants to play the game like everyone else. We understand some other teams may feel this way [as Stoglin does], but we made a basketball decision first.
"We put together a team that we think can win the BAL championship. We have a roster of over 20 players that were ready to compete, but the final roster could only be 13. We made a basketball decision which can be justified by our performance so far."
Stoglin a]nd Cole have been two of the headline acts of the group stage of the BAL, albeit for starkly contrasting reasons. However, Stoglin feels that he has not yet performed to his full potential.
Of his 40 points against AS Police, 23 came in the fourth quarter. By his own admission, he has been slow out of the blocks, although he has grown into games as they have progressed.
He said: "I think it has to do with focus. I think I'm more locked in when it's money time -- time to do the business and go home. I feel more pressure and that's when I rise.
"Personally, I have to fix that, because in the playoffs, it's not going to be that way. That's something that I have to do better in -- lock in from the beginning of the game and go from there."
True to his straight-shooting form, the 29-year-old had no qualms declaring himself the top contender for MVP. However, he also holds a firm belief that the accolade should be bestowed upon a player from the winning team.
"I'm really focused on winning [with the team], because I think the MVP should win [the BAL]," said Stoglin.
"I focus on doing the best that I can. I feel like if you think about something too much, it won't happen, because you lose focus on the goal.
"If you stay locked in, continue to serve people and do right, then the cards will fall in your favour... I do think I'm the MVP, but the job is not done."
Stoglin's career has seen him play in Bahrain, China, France, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Poland, Qatar, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela -- not to mention Egypt, where he helped Zamalek win the title and qualify for the BAL.