As the Saint John Mill Rats finalize their upcoming season schedule, team officials say they're still waiting for player Modibo Diarra to return from West Africa after a military coup earlier this year.
Diarra flew to Mali, his native country, in March to be with his family following the coup. He said he won't leave unless his wife and daughter come with him.
They're now waiting for the necessary visa paperwork to return to New Brunswick.
David Cooper, co-owner of the Mill Rats, said he's focusing on the upcoming basketball season and making sure Diarra makes it home.
"We expect him to come back here in the next coming weeks and when he gets back I expect Modibo to do what he does best — to come back out to the floor ready to work hard and more so, get back into the community and just reach out," he said.
Diarra is a six-foot-10-inch forward with the Mill Rats. Even though he is considered one of the team’s star players, Mill Rats' wages are not very high and he can't afford the legal costs of securing visas or airfare on his own.
To help, the team has helped raise more than $15,000 for Diarra and his family.
The Mill Rats' office manager, Apryll Stansfield, said they're now waiting for the Canadian Embassy to grant Diarra's application.
"We've overcome raising the money. We've overcome getting some support, now it's just waiting," she said.
Stansfield said she hopes Diarra will be back before the team finalizes its season schedule in August.