By Oluwamayomikun Orekoya
America’s National Basketball Association (NBA) new boy Isaac Okoro still considers himself a Nigerian despite not being born in the country and representing the USA in age-grade tournaments.
The 19-year-old is heading to the Cleveland Cavaliers as the 5th pick in the 2020 NBA draft and was among eight basketballers of Nigerian descent that got drafted yesterday, including Jordan Nwora, son of former D’Tigers coach Alex Nwora.
Isaac Okoro said: “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 2020 NBA Draft was also the first time two players born in Nigeria were selected in the first round.
21-year-old Precious Achiuwa, selected by the Miami Heat, was born in Port Harcourt while Utah Jazz’s Udoka Timothy Azubuike, also 21, was born in Lagos.
“First I want to thank God,” Precious Achiuwa said
“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.”
For Udoka Azubuike, working hard and a strong belief in his ability will be key to having a successful career in the NBA.
“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.”
Other players of Nigerian descent picked include Onyeka Okongwu selected by Atlanta Hawks; Daniel Oturu picked by New York Knicks; Zeke Nnaji by Denver Nuggets; and Desmond Bane picked by Memphis Grizzlies.