Who Are They? – Five Africans Selected in the First Round of the 2020 NBA Draft
The amount of motherland representatives in the NBA is about to rise significantly.
This year’s NBA draft saw an unprecedented number entrants from Africa or of African descent, try their hand at being selected to the NBA. The pool of talented African ball players saw five Nigerians get selected in the first round.
Here we take a look at the five African basketball players selected in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft.
Isaac Okoro – #5 Overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Isaac Okoro’s parents are Nigerian immigrants who had moved to the United States in the 1980s in search of a better life, allowing him to pick up interest in basketball as early as 8-years-old.
Now, 19-years-old, standing at 6 feet 6 inches, Okoro declared for the NBA 2020 draft after just one year of collegiate basketball, forgoing his remaining 3 years of college and ultimately being drafted in the Top 5.
Okoro was recruited into college as a 4-star recruit from McEachern High School in Powder Springs, Georgia. In his solitary year at Auburn, he played 28 games, all as a starter, averaging 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2 assists per game.
His time with the Auburn Tigers men’s basketball team has made the small forward one of the most sought after wing players in the draft.
Onyeka Okongwu – #6 Overall to the Atlanta Hawks
Born in Los Angeles, California to Nigerian parents, Onyeka Okongwu was widely predicted to go high in the draft, which he did.
Standing at 6 feet 9 inches, 245 pounds and just 19-years-old, Okongwu has drawn comparison to another NBA big man of Nigerian descent, Bam Adebayo, due to the several similarities in their style of play and the dominant nature of their short college ball careers.
Onyeka who is comfortable playing as a center or a power forward joined the University of South California as a 5-star recruit after a successful high career, and it didn’t take him long at all to exert his dominance at the collegiate level, instantly becoming USC Trojans’ best player.
He scored 20 points, recorded 13 rebounds and 8 blocks in his debut for the Trojans and he ended his freshman year leading the Trojans team with an average of 16.2 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game and 2.7 blocks per game.
Just like Bam Adebayo did, Onyeka Okongwu decided to forgo his remaining 3 years of college eligibility and declare for the 2020 NBA draft and as predicted, went high in the draft as the #6 pick by the Atlanta Hawks.
While still very raw and would need some coaching and time to adapt mostly because of his age, Onyeka Okongwu’s mastery of the basketball fundamentals is what makes him so sought after, a menace around the rim both defensively and offensively, this kid could go right to the very top.
Precious Achiuwa – #20 Overall to the Maimi Heat
To say Precious Achiuwa is the most athletic player in this year’s draft wouldn’t be too far away from the truth.
The 21-year-old power forward stands at 6 feet 9 inches and extends well and glides around the court with ease for someone his size.
Born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, Precious moved to the United States with his entire family in the middle of high school and continued his education with Montverde Academy, where he dominated.
Precious Achiuwa finished high school in 2019 as a consensus top 15 player in the country, a McDonalds All-American, and headed into college as a 5-star recruit with an ESPN rating of 95.
His freshman year didn’t disappoint, he lived up to his huge high school reputation, finishing the season with a 2019-20 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year awards.
Precious was also ranked 13th in the nation and led the AAC in rebounding average and then selected 2019-20 All-AAC First Team and All-Freshman Team, before then declaring for the 2020 NBA draft.
Precious Achiuwa possesses an elite physical profile, explosive and light on his feet, a solid ball-handler for his someone his size and he doesn’t shy away from shooting when the lanes are clogged, the sort of attributes the Miami Heat were looking for.
Zeke Nnaji – #22 Overall to the Denver Nuggets
Ezekiel Tobechukwu Nnaji, popularly known as “Zeke” is a 19-year-old who played college basketball as a freshman for Arizona before opting to forgo his remaining 3 years of college eligibility and declare for the NBA draft.
Although born in America to an American mother, there’s no doubting the Naija in this one, his father Alphan Nnaji is a bonafide citizen of the West African nation.
Zeke was considered a 4-star recruit at the end of high school and had offers from no less than 5 universities and colleges to come play for them, but he eventually chose Arizona.
He didn’t waste any time at all. the power forward scored 21 points in 20 minutes on his debut to help Arizona to a win, and he would finish the season with an average of 16.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in 32 total games, all as a starter.
Standing at 6 feet and 11 inches, his agility and stamina is not something you’d expect from someone his size, and his huge frame should help him to compete at the next level.
His mobility helps him defend better than most power forwards, and he’s also a menace on the offensive end, playing primarily without the ball, catching lobs, rolling off picks and knocking down midrange shots with scary consistency. The Denver Nuggets are getting a superb player with plenty of potentials.
Udoka Azubuike – #27 Overall to the Utah Jazz
There are not many college players if any at all, with a physical presence that matches the imposition demeanour of Udoka Azubuike, the center by way of the Kansas City Jayhawks men’s basketball team.
Azubuike moved from Nigeria to the States in his early teens on a basketball scholarship after he was discovered through the Basketball Without Borders program, and he didn’t waste any time to announce himself at the high school level.
It was especially in his senior year at Potter’s House Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida that he truly shined. He ranked among the consensus top-30 prospects in the class of 2016 while earning McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All-American honors.
His time in collegiate basketball was also filled with several achievements; twice he led the nation in field goal percentage, he owns the 2nd and 3rd best single-season marks in NCAA history (77% in 2017-18 and 74.8% in 2019-20) and was crowned the 2019-20 NABC Defensive Player of the Year.
His college reign also saw him selected for the 2019-20 AP All-America Second Team and he was also one of five finalists for the Naismith Trophy, the Wooden Award and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award in 2019-20.
Udoka Azubuike is only 21 years old, and yet he already possesses tremendous size and strength along with an ability to play to those attributes, using his length to protect the rim and grab rebounds. He’s also quite the athlete for someone so big. His mobility might catch few NBA players off guard.