Eight players of Nigerian descent have been selected into the NBA draft 2020 which was presented by State Farm.
The presentation was held virtually on Wednesday, Nov. 18 from ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Connecticut and reached fans in 215 countries and territories in 29 languages.
The Minnesota Timberwolves made the first pick for the second time in franchise history, selecting Georgia’s Anthony Edwards.
The Golden State Warriors picked second (Memphis’ James Wiseman) for the first time in the common draft era. The Charlotte Hornets picked LaMelo Ball from Australia’s NBL third overall.
13 international players from 10 countries were selected: seven in the first round and six in the second round.
Precious Achiuwa was selected 20th overall by the Miami Heat and Udoka Azubuike was selected 27th overall by the Utah Jazz, marking the first time that two players from Nigeria were selected in the first round of the same NBA Draft.
Achiuwa and Azubuike are among the eight draftees from or with at least one parent from Nigeria, including Isaac Okoro (5th overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers), Onyeka Okongwu (6th overall by the Atlanta Hawks), Zeke Nnaji (22nd overall by the Denver Nuggets), Desmond Bane (30th overall by the Boston Celtics), Daniel Oturu (33rd overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves) and Jordan Nwora (45th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks).
Speaking on his selection, Isaac Okoro said he is glad to be associated with Nigeria through his mother.
“It feels great to be the first Nigerian in this draft to be drafted. It’s also just a blessing. Like you said, my mom 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.”
In the same vein, Precious Achiuwa said he looks forward playing for Heat soon.
“First I want to thank God. I want to thank God for putting me in this type of position where I’m playing for a great organization and able to represent not just myself but where I’m from, my whole country behind me, my whole city. And to play for an organization like the Heat is going to be amazing. I can’t wait to be able to get out there and compete with the rest of my teammates.”
Udoka Azubuike: “For me, I’ve just been working hard and keeping my head down. Not listening to the people talking about projections. A lot of people had me in the second round, but I wasn’t 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 go there and have to prove myself and work hard.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) has welcomed the selection of eight Nigerian-American basketball players in the 2020 NBA Draft.
According to the NBBF, the selection marks a new dawn for basketball progress in the country. The eight players were drafted for the NBA as Nigeria prepares for next year’s Olympics Games.
This marks the first time eight players with Nigerian origin would be selected for the draft.
The NBA draft is an annual event dating back to 1947 in which the teams from the National Basketball Association (NBA) can draft players who are eligible and wish to join the league.
Usually, college basketball players are selected and international players are also eligible to be drafted for selection.