Eight players of Nigerian descent have been selected in the 2020 NBA draft held via videoconferencing on Thursday, with two of them making the Top 10 pick.
Six of the players – Isaac Okoro, Onyeka Okongwu, Precious Achiuwa, Zeke Nnaji, Udoka Azubuike and Desmond Bane were selected in the first round, while Daniel Oturu and Jordan Nwora were selected in the second round.
This is the first time Nigeria will be having eight players in the draft. The previous record was in the 2017 draft where five Nigerians – Bam Adebayo (14), OG Anunoby (23), Wesley Iwundu (33), Semi Ojeleye (37) and Ike Anigbogu (47) were picked.
It’s also the first time two players born in Nigeria – Precious Achiuwa and Udoka Azubuike – would be selected in the first round.
Isaac Okoro,19, is the highest pick after he was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with their only pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, at No.5 overall in the first round.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia to Nigerian parents who migrated to the United States in the 80s, the 6ft6in small forward attended Auburn University in Alabama and represented the US at youth level.
The second player, Onyeka Okongwu, was selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Okongwu is regarded as one of the best defensive players in this draft.
The 19-year-old was born in Los Angeles, California to Nigerian parents. He attended the University of Southern California.
Okongwu’s older brother, Nnamdi, had also played basketball. In 2014, Nnamdi suffered a brain injury in a skateboarding accident and died after spending three days on life support. Okongwu has since worn the number 21 jersey in honour of his brother.
Born in Port Harcourt, the highly rated Precious Achiuwa, 21, was selected by the Miami Heat with the No.20 pick, giving the reigning Eastern Conference champions more frontcourt depth and athleticism.
The 6ft9in power forward joins fellow Nigerians Gabe Vincent, Chikezie Okpala and Bam Adebayo at the club.
Zeke Nnaji, 19, was drafted with the No.22 pick by Denver Nuggets.
Nnaji played baseball and football as a kid and attended the University of Arizona. The power forward was a 2020 First-team All-Pac-12 player. He is born to a Nigerian father.
Born in Lagos, 7ft tall centre Udoka Azubuike was selected by the Utah Jazz as the 27th pick.
Azubuike, who averaged 2.6 blocks per game last season for the Jayhawks, will have a chance to learn from 7ft1in French star Rudy Gobert and potentially earn minutes behind him.
“I’m so excited to play alongside Rudy,” Azubuike said. “A defensive specialist, that’s mostly what I did at Kansas. I had a similar role to affect the game defensively. So I’m excited to learn from him.”
Desmond Bane wrapped up the players of Nigerian descent in the first round draft. He was selected the 30th overall pick by the Memphis Grizzlies (via the Boston Celtics) in the NBA Draft.
In the second round, LA Clippers acquired centre Daniel Oturu from Minnesota Timberwolves via New York Knicks.
Oturu was selected by New York with the 33rd overall selection and was dealt to LA in exchange for a 2023 second-round pick.
Born in Buffalo, New York to a Nigerian father and an American mother, Jordan Nwora was selected by Milwaukee Bucks with the No. 45 overall pick in the second round of the 2020 NBA Draft.
Nwora featured for D’Tigers at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, having been actively involved in the qualifiers for the competition.