Eight Players Of Nigerian Descent Selected In NBA Draft 2020
By Godson Umejiego, Correspondent USA
NBA Draft 2020 Presented by State Farm® 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).
Isaac Okoro commented: “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.”
Precious Achiuwa said: “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 reacted: “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.”
International Players Selected in NBA Draft 2020 Presented by State Farm®:
Killian Hayes (France; born in Lakeland, Fla.; ratiopharm Ulm) was selected 7th overall by Detroit Pistons, becoming the highest-drafted French player ever. Hayes was named an All-Star at two Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Global camps as part of NBA All-Star 2018 and 2019 and becomes the ninth former BWB camper to be drafted in the top 10 in the last five years. There were eight French players on 2019-20 opening-night rosters.
Deni Avdija (Israel; Maccabi Tel Aviv) was selected 9th overall by the Washington Wizards (htt, becoming the highest-drafted Israeli player ever and just the second Israeli player to be drafted in the first round (Omri Casspi, 23rd overall in 2009). Avdija was named MVP of Basketball Without Borders Europe (BWB) 2018 and BWB Global 2019 and becomes the 10th former BWB camper to be drafted in the top 10 in the last five years. Avdija’s father, Zufer, won a bronze medal with Yugoslavia at the 1982 FIBA Basketball World Championship and played professionally in Serbia and Israel. His mother, Sharon Artzi, is a former championship runner.
Aleksej Pokuševski (Serbia; Olympiacos) was selected 17th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, becoming the highest-drafted Serbian player since Darko Miličić, (2nd overall in 2003) and the fourth Serbian player to be drafted in the first round in the last 15 years. Pokuševski participated in Basketball Without Borders Europe 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia alongside fellow 2020 draftee Deni Avdija (9th overall by the Washington Wizards; Israel). There were six Serbian players on 2019-20 opening night rosters, the fifth most of any country outside the U.S.
Josh Green (Australia; University of Arizona) was selected 18th overall by the Dallas Mavericks, becoming the highest-drafted Australian player since Ben Simmons (1st overall in 2016) and the seventh Australian to be drafted in the first round. Green was named an All-Star at Basketball Without Borders Global 2018 and participated in the 2018 NBA Global Camp in Treviso, Italy alongside fellow 2020 draftees Killian Hayes and Theo Maledon (France).
Precious Achiuwa (Nigeria; University of Memphis) was selected 20th overall by the Miami Heat, becoming the third Nigerian player to be drafted in the first round since 2000. There are 10 current and former NBA players from Nigeria, tied with Senegal for the most of any African country. There are more than 90 current and former NBA players from Africa or with direct family ties to the continent, including 13 African-born players on 2019-20 opening-night rosters.
Leandro Bolmaro (Argentina; FC Barcelona) was selected 23rd overall by the New York Knicks, becoming the highest-drafted Argentinian player ever. Bolmaro participated in Basketball Without Borders Americas 2017 and Basketball Without Borders Global 2018, where he was named an All-Star alongside fellow 2020 draftees Killian Hayes (7th overall by Detroit Pistons; France) and Josh Green (18th overall by the Dallas Mavericks; Australia). In March 2018, Bolmaro joined top prospects from the league’s NBA Academies at Next Generation Sunday at the NCAA Men’s Final Four in San Antoni, where he participated in educational and life-skills sessions, competed against peers from around the world, and experienced aspects of the Final Four from a player’s perspective, including attending Final Four semifinal games. Prior to the event, he spent a week training at NBA Academy Latin America in Mexico City alongside top prospects from across the region.
Udoka Azubuike (Nigeria; University of Kansas) 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 (Precious Achiuwa was selected 20th overall by the Miami Heat).
Théo Maledon (France; ASVEL) was selected 34th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. Maledon participated in the 2018 NBA Global Camp in Treviso, Italy alongside fellow 2020 draftees Killian Hayes (France) and Josh Green (Australia).
Vit Krejčí (Czech Republic; Casademont Zaragoza) was selected 37th overall by the Washington Wizards, becoming the first player drafted from the Czech Republic since Tomas Satoransky (32nd overall in the 2012). Krejčí participated in Basketball Without Borders Europe 2017 and Basketball Without Borders Global 2018.
Nick Richards (Jamaica; University of Kentucky) was selected 42nd overall by the New Orleans Pelicans, becoming the highest-drafted Jamaican player since Rumeal Robinson (10th overall in 1990) and the first Jamaican player drafted since Jerome Jordan (44th overall in 2010).
Marko Simonović (Montenegro; Mega Soccerbet) was selected 44th overall by the Chicago Bulls.
Yam Madar (Israel; Hapoel Tel Aviv) was selected 47th overall by the Boston Celtics, marking the first time that two Israeli players were selected in the same NBA Draft (Deni Avdija was selected 9th overall by the Washington Wizards, becoming the highest-drafted Israeli player ever).
Nico Mannion (Italy; University of Arizona) was selected 48th overall by the Golden State Warriors, becoming the highest-drafted Italian player since Danilo Gallinari (6th overall in 2008). Mannion was born in Italy and holds dual citizenship. His father, Pace, played in the NBA and the Italian League. His mother, Gaia, was a professional volleyball player in her native Italy.
International Players in the NBA:
There were 108 international players from 38 countries and territories on 2019-20 opening-night rosters (press release from 10/22/19 linked here.
The 2019-20 season was the sixth consecutive season that opening-night rosters featured at least 100 international players.
Canada had the most NBA players of any country outside the U.S. for the sixth straight year with 16 players (Australia and France had nine each).
The Dallas Mavericks led the league with seven international players on 2019-20 opening-night NBA rosters.
A record six international players were named to a 2019-20 All-NBA Team: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks; Greece; All-NBA First Team); Luka Dončić (Dallas Mavericks; Slovenia; All-NBA First Team); Nikola Jokić (Denver Nuggets; Serbia; All-NBA Second Team); Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors; Cameroon; All-NBA Second Team); Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz; France; All-NBA Third Team) and Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers; Australia; All-NBA Third Team).