San Antonio Spurs rookie, Chimezie Metu speaks to Ayotunde Onabolu about his commitment to playing for Nigeria and also talks about life in the NBA and what he hopes to achieve in his career.
It was late on Thursday, June 21, 2018, and the pomp and pageantry of the 2018 NBA Draft had simmered down after the first round of the draft had concluded. At this point, NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver’s announcements of draft picks into the second round really had no fanfare, unlike the first round, picks who had the chance to hug family and friends and climb up the stage to shake hands and at times hug the Commissioner, dressed in all sorts of colorful and at times weirdly looking suits.
Second round draft picks seldom make their way to the arena, but instead, watch from the comfort of their homes within their nuclear families and a few well-wishers, and such was the case of Chimezie Metu who went to the San Antonio Spurs with the 49th overall pick.
Metu declared after the Spurs beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-108 in their season opener on Wednesday that he is one hundred percent Nigerian and will be in line to represent the country at next year’s FIBA World Cup in China.
“One hundred percent, yeah! I’ll be there next year at the World Cup. It was just a matter of timing. I know they have me listed as American, but I’m Nigerian one hundred percent,” affirmed Metu with great enthusiasm whilst he was still being asked if he would consider playing for Nigeria.
The 21-year-old power forward from the University of South California penned a three-year rookie deal with the Spurs, meaning his career in the NBA was now in full effect.
With quite a number of veteran big men on the Spurs roster, Metu could not make his debut when the Spurs defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 112-108 in their season opener in San Antonio. With veterans such as Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as Jakob Poeltl and Davis Bertans all logging minutes. Metu understands he needs to work extra hard and be patient.
“If I keep working, I’ll get my chance down the line. Right now, I’m playing behind LaMarcus (Aldridge) and Pau (Gasol) and Jakob (Poeltl)—these are great players, but if I can stay ready, I’ll have my opportunity.”
The Spurs are known to possess some foresight when selecting deep into drafts, with former guards Manu Ginobili (57th overall pick in 1999) and Tony Parker (28th overall pick in 2001) going on to have Hall of Fame careers despite being drafted late, and Metu hopes to be in that sort of conversation.
Metu identified guard DeMar DeRozan, who led the team with 28 points in his first game as a Spur and forward Rudy Gay, who added 18 points in the win over the Timberwolves, as his mentors and biggest influences in the locker room.
Meanwhile, Head Coach of the Spurs, Gregg Popovich, when asked about what the organization saw in Metu that led to them drafting him ahead of the other prospects left in the draft pool, said;
“He is very intelligent, he’s got great quickness and speed, he’s got a lot of flexibility to his game, he’s a hard worker, he’s got a good size. All those things attracted us to him.”
Two-time NBA champion and six-time All-Star veteran, Gasol also paid glowing compliments to the talent and potential of Metu.
“He’s a very athletic guy, young and full of energy. He has great fundamentals, great touch and he has great potential to do a lot of good things. He is still very young and has come to a team that is pretty established. He can learn a lot in here and his opportunity will come.”
Metu had this to say about how he would love to be viewed when his career is done:
“[I would love to be remembered as] a great player and an even better person and hopefully down the line, I can use my platform to help people—not just in Nigeria—but around the world.