American, DeMario Mayfield, is Iraq’s new basketball star

A Georgia-born former college basketball player has become an Iraqi citizen so he can play for the country's national team.

DeMario Mayfield moved to Baghdad seeking redemption two years ago after his hoop dreams were left in tatters by a run-in with the law.

The dual national says he now earns a six-figure salary playing professional basketball in Iraq, admitting it was “mind-boggling" to think how much his life had changed since leaving the U.S.

“Before I came to Baghdad, I didn’t know what to expect," he told NBC News. "I had just all bad expectations. Then I got here and I’ve met some of the most genuine and nicest people that I’ve ever met."

RELATED: UCLA basketball players caught shoplifting in China

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UCLA basketball players caught shoplifting in China
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UCLA basketball players caught shoplifting in China
UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball arrives at LAX after flying back from China where he was detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
UCLA basketball players Cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball, and Jalen Hill speak at a press conference at UCLA after flying back from China where they were detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball players LiAngelo Ball (R) and Cody Riley arrive at LAX after flying back from China where they were detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball players LiAngelo Ball (R) and Cody Riley arrive at LAX after flying back from China where they were detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 14, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball player Cody Riley speaks at a press conference at UCLA after flying back from China where he was detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball listens at a press conference at UCLA after flying back from China where he was detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
UCLA basketball players Cody Riley, LiAngelo Ball, and Jalen Hill speak at a press conference at UCLA after flying back from China where they were detained on suspicion of shoplifting, in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 15: Jalen Hill of the UCLA Men's Baskeball speaks to the media during a press conference at Pauley Pavilion on November 15, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. Hill and two teammates have been suspended from the team after allegedly shoplifting while on a school trip to China. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 15: Cody Riley of the UCLA Men's Baskeball team speaks to the media during a press conference at Pauley Pavilion on November 15, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. Riley and two teammates have been suspended from the team after allegedly shoplifting while on a school trip to China. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
LaVar Ball (L), father of basketball player LiAngelo Ball and the owner of the Big Baller brand, sits with his other son LaMelo Ball during a promotional event in Hong Kong on November 14, 2017. UCLA players LiAngelo Ball -- the younger brother of Los Angeles Lakers rookie star Lonzo Ball -- and teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were arrested on November 7 in Hangzhou ahead of their regular-season-opening game against Georgia Tech in nearby Shanghai this past weekend. ESPN reported that they were nabbed on suspicion of stealing from a Louis Vuitton store and later freed on bail but ordered to remain in Hangzhou. / AFP PHOTO / Anthony WALLACE (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 15: LiAngelo Ball and Cody Riley (L) of the UCLA Men's Baskeball team speak to the media during a press conference at Pauley Pavilion on November 15, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. Ball, Riley and Jalen Hill have been suspended from the team after allegedly shoplifting while on a school trip to China. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 22: LaMelo Ball and LiAngelo Ball pose for a portrait with Lonzo Ball after being drafted number two overall to the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2017 NBA Draft on June 22, 2017 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)
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He added: “It was an eye-opener for me to never judge when you’ve never experienced anything in their culture.”

Husein Al-Amdey, the chairman of the Iraqi Basketball Federation, was thrilled that Mayfield had received Iraqi citizenship. He described the 6-foot-5 forward as “one of the best basketball players in the region.”

Al-Amdey said he believes Mayfield “is going to be of a great help for the Iraqi team,” which is currently ranked 85 out of 149teams by FIBA, the International Basketball Federation.

Mayfield, who was not selected in the 2015 NBA draft, says it’s a big responsibility to pull on the Iraqi national team's jersey.

“Everyone looks at the American as the hero here,” he said. “I definitely have to lead these guys to play their best. And I also must play my best to put us in a position to be successful.”

Mayfield played for three colleges in the U.S. — the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of Georgia and Angelo State University in Texas.

But in May 2013, he was charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery in Georgia.

He accepted a plea deal and served 10 and a half months in a diversion center, which he described as like a “jail/work camp." He then served another year on probation.

“That’s why I had to come to Iraq,” Mayfield said when asked about the charge. “To build my name back up, build my resume back up, because that was a major blow to my career.”

Now aged 26, Mayfield said many top agents wouldn’t work with him and the incident prevented him for playing professionally in Europe or China.

RELATED: NCAA basketball tradition of cutting down the nets

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NCAA basketball tradition of cutting down the nets
CHAPEL HILL, NC- CIRCA 1968: Rusty Clark #43 of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels cuts down the net after the win in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by North Carolina/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)
EAST LANSING, MI- CIRCA 1978: Magic Johnson #33 of the Michigan State University Spartans cuts the net down after a win at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Michigan State/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)
MARCH 7, 1982: Matt Doherty #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels cuts down a piece of the net on March 7, 1982 after Carolina defeated Virginia in ACC Conference Tournament final 47-45. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - CIRCA 1981-1984: Hakeem Olajuwon, #34 center of the University of Houston Cougars football team cuts down the net after a game at Hofheinz Pavilion in Houston, Texas. (Photo by University of Houston/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)
CHAPEL HILL, NC- CIRCA 1990: Rick Fox, #44 forward of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels cuts down the net after a win at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by North Carolina/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)
APR 1991: MIKE KRZYZEWSKI, HEAD COACH OF DUKE BASKETBALL, CUTS DOWN THE NET AFTER WINNING THE NCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP. DUKE BEAT KANSAS 72-65 AT THE HOOSIER DOME, INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA. Mandatory Credit: ALLSPORT USA/ALLSPORT
NEW YORK CITY, NY - CIRCA 1992-1996: Kerry Kittles, #30 guard of the Villanova University Wildcats cuts down the net during the BIG EAST Conference men's basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. (Photo by BIG EAST Conference/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)
11 Mar 1995: UCLA GUARD TYUS EDNEY CUTS DOWN THE NET IN CELEBRATION OF THE BRUINS'' PAC-10 CHAMPIONSHIP AFTER A VICTORY OVER OREGON STATE AT PAULEY PAVILION IN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA.
23 Mar 1996: Tony Delk of Kentucky cuts down the net after defeating Wake Forest 83-63 in the NCAA Midwest regional final at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Delk was voted the regional''s outstanding player as Kentucky advances to the FinalFour.
31 Mar 1996: Head Coach Pat Summitt of Tennessee and her son Tyler celebrate while cutting down the net after the Lady Volunteers defeat Georgia in the championship game of the NCAA Women''s Final Four played at Charlotte Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carol
ST. PETERBURG, FL - MARCH 22: Head coach Tubby Smith of University of Kentucky Wildcats celebrates cutting down the basketball net after winning the 1998 NCAA South Regionals Final game against Duke University Blue Devils at Tropicana Field on March 22, 1998 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Wildcates won 86-84. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright 1998 ( Photo by: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
26 Mar 2000: Coach Billy Donovan of the Florida Gators cuts down the net after the NCAA East Regional Game against the Oklahoma Cowboys at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. The Gators defeated the Cowboys 77-65. Mandatory Credit: David Leeds /Allsport
25 Mar 2001: Arizona Wildcats center #3 Loren Woods sticks out his tongue while cutting down the net after defeating Illinois during the NCAA Midwest Regional final at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. DIGITAL IMAGE Mandatory Credit: Ronald Martinez/ALLSPORT
24 Mar 2002: Head coach Roy Williams cuts down a piece of the net after they beat Oregon during the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin. The Kansas Jayhawks beat the Oregon Ducks 104-86 to advance to the Final Four in Atlanta, Georgia. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Elsa/ Getty Images.
DALLAS - MARCH 16: Guard Hollis Price #10 of the Oklahoma Sooners steps down from cutting a piece of the net after winning the finals of the Phillips 66 Big XII Championships against the Missouri Tigers at the American Airlines Center March 16, 2003, in Dallas, Texas. Hollis led the Sooners with 14 points and Oklahoma won 49-47. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
ATLANTA - APRIL 8: Ann Strother #43 of the University of Connecticut Huskies helps with the ceremonial cutting of the net after defeating the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers in the NCAA Women's Championship game at the Georgia Dome on April 8, 2003 in Atlanta, Georgia. Connecticut defeated Tennessee 73-68. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 5: Ben Gordon #4 of the UConn Huskies holds a piece of the net in his mouth after cutting it down after defeating the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 82-73 during the National Championship game of the NCAA Men's Final Four Tournament at the Alamodome on April 5, 2004 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - APRIL 6: Diana Taurasi #3 of the University of Connecticut Huskies cuts down the net after defeating theTennessee Lady Vols 70-61 in the National Championship game of the NCAA Women's Final Four Tournament at the New Orleans Arena on April 6, 2004 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
ALBUQUERQUE, NM - MARCH 26: Larry O'Bannon #32 of the Louisville Cardinals cuts down the net after the Cardinals' victory over the West Virginia Mountaineers in overtime during the Elite 8 game of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament on March 26, 2005 at The Pit in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Cardinals won in overtime 93-85 and will advance to the Final Four. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
DENVER - MARCH 11: Head coach Elaine Elliott of the Utah Utes cuts down the net after her women defeated the Brigham Young University Cougars 84-60 in the championship of the Women's Mountain West Conference Basketball Tournament on March 11, 2006 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Florida's Joakim Noah cuts down the net as the Florida Gators beat the UCLA Bruins 73-57 in the championship game of the Final Four Monday, April 3, 2006 at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Harry E. Walker/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)
BOSTON - APRIL 04: Head coach Brenda Frese of the Maryland Terrapins celebrates as she cuts down the net after defeating the Duke Blue Devils 78-75 in overtime in the 2006 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship Game on April 4, 2006 at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - MARCH 11: Head Thad Matta of the Ohio State Buckeyes cuts down the net following Ohio St.'s 66-49 win against the Wisconsin Badgers during the Final of the Big Ten Men's Basketball Conference Tournament March 11, 2007 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
ATLANTA - APRIL 02: Joakim Noah #13 of the Florida Gators cuts down the net after his team defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes during the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game at the Georgia Dome on April 2, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND - APRIL 03: Head coach Pat Summitt of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers celebrates after cutting down the net after Tennessee's 59-46 win against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to win the 2007 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship Game at Quicken Loans Arena on April 3, 2007 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 29: Ty Lawson #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels cuts down the net after defeating the Louisville Cardinals during the 2008 NCAA Men's East Regional Final at Bobcats Arena on March 29, 2008 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Tar Heels defeated the Cardinals 83-73 to advance to the final four. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - APRIL 08: Head coach Pat Summitt of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers celebrates cutting down the net as her son Tyler holds the trophy after their 64-48 win against the Stanford Cardinal during the National Championsip Game of the 2008 NCAA Women's Final Four at St. Pete Times Forum April 8, 2008 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MARCH 13: Da'Sean Butler #1 of the West Virginia Mountaineers puts the net around his head after cutting it down after defeating the Georgetown Hoyas in the championship of the 2010 NCAA Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 13, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS - APRIL 05: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils cuts down a piece of the net following their 61-59 win against the Butler Bulldogs during the 2010 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 06: Center Tina Charles #31 of the Connecticut Huskies celebrates while cutting down the net after a 53-47 win against the Stanford Cardinal during the NCAA Women's Final Four Championship game at the Alamodome on April 6, 2010 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 26: Kemba Walker #15 of the Connecticut Huskies cuts down the net after defeating the Arizona Wildcats during the west regional final of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Honda Center on March 26, 2011 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall cuts down the net and celebrates with fans after his team defeated Drake University, 81-58, and won the Missouri Valley Conference regular season title at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita, Kansas, Saturday, February 25, 2012. (Travis Heying/Wichita Eagle/MCT via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 24: Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes looks on after cutting down the net after defeating the Syracuse Orange during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball East Regional Final at TD Garden on March 24, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 30: Ron Baker #31 of the Wichita State Shockers celebrates by cutting down the net after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 70-66 during the West Regional Final of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 30, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 09: Heather Buck #32 of the Connecticut Huskies cuts down the net after defeating the Louisville Cardinals during the 2013 NCAA Women's Final Four Championship at New Orleans Arena on April 9, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 09: Overhead view of Geno Auriemma, head coach of the Connecticut Huskies, cutting down the net following a victory over the Louisville Cardinals in the National Final game of the 2013 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship at New Orleans Arena on April 9, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 30: Head coach Kevin Ollie of the Connecticut Huskies cuts down the net after defeating the Michigan State Spartans to win the East Regional Final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 30, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 08: Breanna Stewart #30 of the Connecticut Huskies cuts down the net after defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 79 to 58 in the NCAA Women's Final Four Championship at Bridgestone Arena on April 8, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - MARCH 8: Ben Moore #00 of the SMU Mustangs cuts down the net after defeating the Tulsa Golden Hurricane and winning the American Athletic Conference regular season championship on March 8, 2015 at Moody Coliseum in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 06: Marshall Plumlee #40 of the Duke Blue Devils cuts down the net after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers during the NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 6, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Duke defeated Wisconsin 68-63. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
12 March 2016: Oregon head coach Dana Altman cuts down the remainder of the net and points to the crowd as he celebrates the victory during the men's Pac-12 Basketball Tournament championship game between the Utah Utes and Oregon Ducks at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV. Oregon defeated Utah 88-57. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 13: Shonn Miller #32 of the Connecticut Huskies cuts down the net after winning the Final of the 2016 AAC Basketball Tournament against the Memphis Tigers at Amway Center on March 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
SAN JOSE, CA - MARCH 25: Nigel Williams-Goss #5 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs cuts down the net after their 83 to 59 win over the Xavier Musketeers during the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at SAP Center on March 25, 2017 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 25: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks cuts down the net after his teams 74-60 win over the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Midwest Regional at Sprint Center on March 25, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26: Hassani Gravett #2 of the South Carolina Gamecocks celebrates by cutting down the net after defeating the Florida Gators with a score of 77 to 70 to win the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at Madison Square Garden on March 26, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 26: Luke Maye #32 of the North Carolina Tar Heels cuts down the net after making the game winning shot and defeating the Kentucky Wildcats during the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at FedExForum on March 26, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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“I will forever be fighting that, but I have no problem with continuing to prove myself," Mayfield said. "And showing that one mistake doesn’t define a person.”

Mayfield said the memory of long nights alone in a jail cell continue to motivate him to reach his ultimate goal: to compete at the highest level of basketball possible.

In October 2015, he moved to Baghdad and signed with Oil Club, one of 12 teams in the Iraqi league.

Each team is permitted to have two foreign players as part of the league’s strategy to improve the level of competition.

Basketball is still gaining popularity in Iraq and tickets are free to encourage attendance. The crowds can vary from a few hundred to a few thousand, noise-makers and all.

In addition to a salary, Mayfield said Oil Club provides accommodation in a central Baghdad hotel, meals prepared by the hotel’s chef and a driver to get around town.

Mayfield averaged around 29 points, eight rebounds and eight assists per game and led Oil Club to its first championship last season.

His strong performances opened the eyes of sports officials and Mayfield was invited to join the national team. However, there was one major condition: He needed to become an Iraqi citizen.

RELATED: A rare look inside the 'heart of society' for Iraq's Shi'ites

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A rare look inside the 'heart of society' for Iraq's Shi'ites
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A rare look inside the 'heart of society' for Iraq's Shi'ites

Shi'ite clerics talk at al-sayed al-Yazdi school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in Najaf, Iraq, August 12, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics.

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

Shi'ite clerics walk outside the Imam Hussein and Imam Abbas shrines in Kerbala, Iraq, August 19, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

Shi'ite clerics study at al-Gharawiya school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in Najaf, Iraq, August 13, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

Shi'ite clerics study at al-Gharawiya school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in Najaf, Iraq, August 13, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics. R

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

A Shi'ite cleric holds a turban at al-sayed al-Yazdi school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in Najaf, Iraq, August 12, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

Al-sayed al-Yazdi school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya is seen in Najaf, Iraq, August 12, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

A Shi'ite cleric holds a turban at al-sayed al-Yazdi school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in Najaf, Iraq, August 12, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

A Shi'ite cleric buys vegetables at a market in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq, August 13, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

Shi'ite clerics talk at al-sayed al-Yazdi school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in Najaf, Iraq, August 12, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

Shi'ite clerics walk out of the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq, August 13, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

A Shi'ite cleric takes off his shoes as he enters Ibn al-Fahd al-Heli school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in Kerbala, Iraq, July 30, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

Abdul Hussain Jassim Al Aboudi, 60, a student at al-Gharawiya school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya, holds a book, in Najaf, Iraq, August 13, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

Star Jaber Al-Busaisi (C), 58, a teacher at Ibn al-Fahd al-Heli school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya, speaks to the principal of the school, in Kerbala, Iraq, August 4, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

Shi'ite clerics pray at Sadiq Hussaini Shirazi's office who is a top Shi'ite cleric in Kerbala, Iraq, July 30, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

A Shi'ite cleric walks to a religious school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in Najaf, Iraq, August 13, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

Shi'ite clerics are seen at Sadiq Hussaini Shirazi's office who is a top Shi'ite cleric in Kerbala, Iraq, July 30, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

A Shi'ite cleric (L) speaks to a student at Ibn al-Fahd al-Heli school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in Kerbala, Iraq, August 4, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

Mohamed Hassan Abdel Hadi Baqer, 25, a student at Ibn al-Fahd al-Heli school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya, looks into a fridge at his home in Kerbala, Iraq, August 18, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

A Shi'ite cleric reads a book at a library in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq, August 12, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

A Shi'ite cleric makes his call to prayer at Sadiq Hussaini Shirazi's office who is a top Shi'ite cleric in Kerbala, Iraq, July 30, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

Mohamed Hassan Abdel Hadi Baqer, 25, a student at Ibn al-Fahd al-Heli school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya, eats with his children at his home in Kerbala, Iraq, August 18, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

A tailor checks the size of a Shi'ite cleric's clothes in Najaf, south of Baghdad, Iraq, August 13, 2017. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

Students are seen at Ibn al-Fahd al-Heli school run by al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in Kerbala, Iraq, August 19, 2017. For more than 1,000 years, the al-Hawza al-Ilmiyya in southern Baghdad has been giving religious instructions to thousands of Shi'ite Muslims to help them become clerics. 

(REUTERS/Abdullah Dhiaa Al-deen)

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Mayfield said he discussed the idea of adopting dual nationality at length with his wife, who lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with their 6-year-old son. Ultimately, they decided he should go for it.

With the national team's support for his application, Mayfield was granted Iraqi citizenship and received his new passport a few weeks ago.

He is the only Iraqi-American dual citizen to play on the country’s national team.

And despite the fact that he misses being away from his wife and son, he’s grateful for the second chance he’s been given in Baghdad.

“The people here have treated me great," Mayfield said. "I don’t have any regrets about coming to Iraq.”

He hopes to get to a point in his career where he can move his wife and son closer to him, if not to Iraq, then to Turkey or Dubai.

In the meantime, being a local celebrity helps him get by.

RELATED: Top college basketball programs 

51 PHOTOS
Top college basketball programs
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Top college basketball programs

50. USC

Points: 174

(Photo by Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

49. DePaul

Points: 186

(Photo by Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

48. San Francisco

Points: 191

(Photo by James Snook-USA TODAY Sports)

47. LSU

Points: 198

(Photo by Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

46. Vanderbilt

Points: 204

(Photo via REUTERS/Eric Draper)

45. Georgia Tech

Points: 213

(Photo by Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)

44. Kansas State

Points: 224

(Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

5. Kansas

Points: 857

(Photo by Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)

43. Minnesota

Points: 226

(Photo by Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

42. West Virginia

Points: 229

(Photo by Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

41. Gonzaga

Points: 230

(Photo by Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

40. Stanford

Points: 232

(Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

39. Utah

Points: 239

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

39. Tennessee

Points: 243

(Photo by Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports)

37. Wisconsin

Points: 250

(Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

36. Texas

Points: 255

(Photo via REUTERS/Bill Waugh)

35. Pittsburgh

Points: 264

(Photo by Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

34. Oklahoma State

Points: 271

(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

20. Oklahoma

Points: 371

(Photo by Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

33. Wake Forest

Points: 281

(Photo by Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

32. Virginia

Points: 283

(Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

31. Arkansas

Points: 289

(Photo by Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)

30. Alabama

Points: 297

(Photo by Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports)

29. Missouri

Points: 300

(Photo by Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

T-27. Florida

Points: 306

(Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

T-27. St. John's

Points: 306

(Photo by Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

26. Memphis

Points: 307

(Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

25. UNLV

Points: 321

(Photo by Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports)

24. Purdue

Points: 339

(Photo by Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)

23. Iowa

Points: 343

(Photo by William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

T-21. North Carolina State

Points: 366

 (Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

T-21. Marquette

Points: 366

(Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

19. Villanova

Points: 372

(Photo by Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports)

18. Notre Dame

Points: 382

(Photo by Jerome Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

17. Maryland

Points: 400

(Photo by James Snook-USA TODAY Sports)

16. Connecticut

Points: 402

(Photo by David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

15. Georgetown

Points: 421

(Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

14. Michigan

Points: 423

(Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

13. Michigan State

Points: 434

(Photo by Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports)

12. Ohio State

Points: 453

(Photo by Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports)

11. Illinois

Points: 479

(Photo viaREUTERS/Mike Stone)

10. Cincinnati

Points: 500

(Photo by Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

9. Syracuse

Points: 581

(Photo by David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)

8. Arizona

Points: 594

(Photo by Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports)

7. Louisville

Points: 627

(Photo by Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports)

6. Indiana

Points: 662

(Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)

4. UCLA

Points: 957

(Photo by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)

3. Duke

Points: 1,032

(Photo by Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

2. North Carolina

Points: 1,098

(Photo by Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports)

1. Kentucky

Points: 1,111

(Photo by Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)

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When Mayfield is on the court, he said all he hears is chants of “Dee, Dee, Dee, the entire time.”

And when he walks the streets of Baghdad, he said he’s often greeted by kids speaking Arabic asking if they can take a picture with him.

He said Baghdad is “definitely not as bad as everyone thinks it is” and that he feels "totally safe."

Mayfield has also found friends among his Iraqi teammates. Some have welcomed him into their homes for family meals. “I consider some of these guys like my brothers,” he said.

Eager to try all of the local delicacies, Mayfield said he “absolutely loves” baklava, the dessert traditionally made of puff pastry and nuts.

He also spends hours hanging out at a famous Iraqi sweet shop near his hotel drinking tea and chatting with the shopkeepers.

Mayfield’s on-court colleagues are impressed with how he’s assimilated and are thrilled that he's sharing his skills.

Related: Inside Baghdad's Basketball Bubble

“He is different from other foreign players in the way of being loved by his teammates and the fans as well,” said Ali Abdullah, 31, who plays with Mayfield on Oil Club and the national team.

Mayfield is expected to don the Iraqi jersey for his first official international game in a World Cup qualifier against Iran on Nov. 24.

Mohammed Dhia, 37, who plays in the Iraqi league for the Electricity team, said Mayfield is a great addition to the national squad.

“Our team is badly in need of player like him,” Dhia added. “The Iraqi team needs someone to lead the team, and the leader is DeMario.”

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