The newly drafted players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) saw eight players from Nigeria heritage were picked by one of the league’s 30 teams, which would mark not only the most Nigerians selected in a single year, but also the most for players of African origin. Five such players were drafted in 2016.
2020/21 NBA season will be the 75th season tentatively scheduled to begin on December 22, 2020 as due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic the regular season has been reduced to 72 from 82 games.
As the rookies sign their first contracts ahead of the NBA season, it now comes the hard part of making the team and getting playing time
D’Tigers, forward Jordan Nwora will be the most popular pick on the list to Nigerians as the 22-year-old, 6ft 7 was chosen as 15th in the second round by the Milwaukee Bucks.
His father Alexander is the country’s assistant coach and the duo became the first Nigerian son and father to be part of a Nigerian national team side at the same time.
Jordan, was part of the Nigerian team that played at the 2019 Men’s World Cup and also Nigeria’s highest scorer in a single match after registering 36 points in a 2019 World Cup qualifier in Lagos.
Standing at 7ft tall, will be playing for the Utah Jazz, coming in as the 27th overall pick in the draft.
The 21-year-old centre is the second Nigeria-born player on the list and was discovered by Raptors, a Lagos-based basketball academy drew the attention of recruiters at one of the NBA and Fiba’s developmental camps in Africa, despite only taking up the sport at 13-year.
Okoro was fifth overall pick and has been chosen by Cleveland Cavaliers of Ohio.The 19-year-old, who is 6ft 6, was born in Atlanta, Georgia to Nigerian parents and the small forward was part of the USA’s winning team at the 2018 Under-17 Basketball World Cup in Argentina.
“It feels great to be the first Nigerian in this draft to be drafted,” he said after being picked.
The 21-year-old, was the third choice in the second round of the draft which made him the 33rd pick overall.
The 6ft 10 centre looks set to end up at the LA Clippers after he was originally picked by the Minnesota Timberwolves, who immediately traded him the New York Knicks before being moved on again.
He was born to Nigerian parents in Minnesota, with his father Francis a former table tennis player for Nigeria.
Brad Underwood, the coach at college side Illinois, who came up against Oturu as he played for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, was full of praise for the youngster.
Denver Nuggets snapped up The 6ft 11 as the 22nd overall pick, The 19-year-old center was born to a Nigerian father and American mother and played college basketball for the Arizona Wildcats.
“I’ve been working a lot during these quarantine times, and I feel like I’ve made a lot of improvements, I’m just excited to do whatever I can to help our team win.” Nnaji said.
Bane started playing baseball before he switched to basketball and was the 30th overall pick, drafted by the Boston Celtics, with reports that he will be traded to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The 22-year-old was the last of the players of Nigerian heritage to be selected in the first round of the draft.
The 6ft 6 shooting guard was raised in Indiana with a southern-Nigerian father and American mother.
The 19-year-old shooting guard is 6ft 9also born to Nigerian parents, was the sixth overall pick selected by Atlanta Hawks. He and was a high school teammate of third pick LaMelo Ball at Chino Hills in California, where he was born.
Achiuwa, who is one of two players born and raised in Nigeria, was the 20th overall pick and was picked by Miami Heat.
The 21-year-old, 6ft 9, power forward grew up playing football in Port Harcourt, before moving to the USA as a teenager.
Miami Heat may well get a few more fans in Nigeria as Achiuwa will join four others at the team who have Nigerian heritage – Bam Adebayo, Andre Iguodala, Chikezie ‘KZ’ Okpala and Gabe Vincent.