There were many firsts for Nigeria last night at the 2020 NBA Draft. Out of the Not only did country produce eight first and second Nigerian players that made it to the NBA, two of those player were picked in the top 10.
Isaac Okoro was selected by Cleveland Cavaliers as the overall 5th pick, closely followed by Onyeka Okongwu who was selected by the Atlanta Hawks. The two of them are second generation Nigerians with both parents from Nigeria.
"If feels great to be the first Nieria in this draft to be drafted. It;s also like a blessing. My mum always tells me to keep that Nigerian pride. Even though I wasn`t born in Nigeria, I still got Nigerian blood. So it`s just having that on my shoulders" - Isaac Okoro
Thirteen (13) international players were selected from 10 countries. Of those thirteen, two are from Nigeria, marking the first time that two players from (born in) Nigeria will be selected in the first round of the same NBA draft. Precious Achiuwa hails from Port Harcourt, Rivers State and finished his University of Memphis while Udoka Azubuike finished from University of Kansas. They were drafted to Miami Heat and Utah Jazz with the 20th and 27th picks respectively.
For Achiuwa, representing the country in the NBA is a dream come true;
"I want to thank God for putting me in the type of position where I`m playing for a great organisation and able to represent not just myself but where I`m from, my whole country behind me, my whole city"
Azubuike understands the task ahead and the pressure of playing in the NBA. He says he is ready to put in the work.
"A lot of people had me in the second round, but I was not concerned about that. I know what I bring to the table. I know what I can bring to a team. I know whatever team drafted me, I`m going to have to o there and prove myself and work hard"
The other four Nigeria drafted last night are Zeke Nnaji (No 22, Denver Nuggets), Desmond Bane (No 30, Memphis Grizzles), Daniel Oturu (No 33, New York Knicks), and Jordan Nwora (No 45, Bucks). Nnaji, Bane and Nwora all have Nigerian fathers.
What does this mean for Nigeria?
The excitement around the NBA draft and the international players is tied to National team representation. For Nigerians, more players in the NBA should translate to more talents for the Basketball Federation to choose from for the National team.
Nwora already plays for DTigers` with his debut for the country during the 2019 FIBA World Cuo qualifiers. Interesting, he holds the record for the the most points in a single game for the men`s senior team with 36 points.
Both Achiuwa and Azubuike qualify automatically to represent Nigeria based on Nationality, while the other five will have to indicate their willingness to switch. As alluded to in his interview, Isaac Okoro has claimed that the Nigerian blood flows in him. How their decisions affect the National team will unfold in coming years.
We wish the stars a wonderful NBA career.