There was some noise that suggested surprise from the crowd at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced
“With the 20th pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select Josh Okogie from Georgia Tech!”
He spoke those words, having previously announced a trade deal involving the Phoenix Suns and the Philadelphia 76ers.
The was a particular interest in where Okogie would end up drafted, as months leading up to the draft, draft analysts had tipped him to go late in the first round or early second round, but a string of very impressive performances meant that Okogie’s stock rose and the only question was how high it had risen.
Back in his country of origin, Nigerians, several of whom stayed awake to monitor proceedings of the annual draft, were elated that he was drafted not too late in the first round, and they had hopes that the Nigerian national basketball team, otherwise known as D’Tigers will someday benefit from his experience playing on the biggest basketball stage in the world.
However, in a chat with BBallNaija’s Ayotunde Onabolu, the 19-year-old Lagos-born Joshua Aloiye Okogie explained he will not be available for selection to the Nigerian national side because of his commitment to the United States, especially having represented them at age-grade level.
“I played with USA Basketball last year—18 and under; so it’s unfortunate, you guys, it’s not going to happen,”
Meanwhile, Okogie said he wasn’t in doubt that he would land a good draft position, especially since scouts and analysts tipped him to go late in the first round or even early in the second round.
“I’m one of the guys that I think people see the kind of person I am. I can play, you know. When you put me under the light, it’s time to shine. I wasn’t even worried about the draft board because we don’t make the decisions. I feel I’m passionate, I stay down and I keep working hard to be the best I can be.”
Okogie is listed at 6 feet 5 inches in height, meaning he will compete with Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler for a role on the wings if he hopes to break into the starting lineup, but this reality doesn’t seem to bother the rookie.
“Nothing changes! I’ve always worked hard to get better. At this stage I am young and I’ve got a lot to learn and one thing I’m in control of is how hard I work and the effort I put in and the rest is for the coaches to decide.”
Leading up to the draft, Atlanta Hawks rookie Trae Young was often compared to two-time league MVP Stephen Curry because of his apparent sharpshooting skills, although Young has asked to be compared to NBA legend Steve Nash instead. Okogie feels he doesn’t have to be compared to any other player.
“I try to be my own person as much as possible. People compare people to Steph Curry but Steph Curry probably never compared himself to anybody. I do rate players that take pride on both ends of the floor. I like guys like Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Jrue Holiday. I don’t really try to hold myself to their standards, but those are the guys that have traits I’ll love to incorporate into my game"
Like every other superstar that has graced the NBA and left a huge mark at the end of their illustrious careers, Okogie hopes he’ll be remembered as a legend.
We will continue to send him love from Nigeria.