LAUSANNE, November 19, 2020 – Eight players of Nigerian descent were selected in the NBA Draft 2020, which was held virtually on Wednesday (November 18), marking a record high for the West African country and, by extension, Africa.
Precious Achiuwa and Udoka Azubuike, the two born in Nigeria, were selected in the top 30, making it the first time that two players from Nigeria were selected in the first round of the same NBA Draft.
Achiuwa was selected 20th overall by the Miami Heat, becoming the third Nigerian player to be drafted in the first round since 2000: “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.”
Azubuike was selected 27th overall by the Utah Jazz: “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.”
Achiuwa (20th overall by the Miami Heat) and Azubuike (27th overall by the Utah Jazz) are among the historic set of 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).
Okoro, the 6’6 shooting guard/small forward from Auburn, expressed his delight at being the first Nigerian to be drafted.
“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.”
The NBA Draft 2020 was presented from ESPN’s studios in Bristol. 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.