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2017 NBA Draft Picks of Nigerian Descent Could Change the Scope of the Sport

The 2017 NBA Draft was an unraveling buzz of African talent that may have well ended into a night of prospect and possibility for Nigeria’s future in basketball.

Five out of six African descents drafted were Nigerians, quite the outnumber and yet it’s no surprise that the West Africans have had a seemingly well-crafted relationship with the NBA – Hakeem Olajuwon, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Giannis Antetokounmpo being the notable of them.

But the future of Nigeria is reshaping and D’Tigers’ coach, William Voigt, is no less among those excited with the results of the 2017 NBA Draft and believes the future to be certainly bright for the country’s sport.

Voigt who won Nigeria its first African Cup, after the draft tweeted, “The future is bright” while referring to the five picks.

All drafts are among several selected to carry on the next generation of the NBA; Edrice “Bam” Adebayo (Miami Heat’s 14th overall draft pick), Ogugua “OG” Anunoby (23rd overall pick for the Toronto Raptors), Wesley Iwundu selected 33rd by Orlando Magic, Semi Ojeleye selected 37th for the Boston Celtics, and Ike Anigbogu (47th overall pick for the Indiana Pacers)



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For Bam Adebayo, joining Miami Heat was more or less certainly written in stone and it did not matter that he played just one season of college basketball at the University of Kentucky.

“So much of this league is about finding the kind of basketball player that fits your culture, fits your style of play, fits your work ethic and Bam checks so many boxes,” said Heat’s coach Erik Spoelstra.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”And he has a great story that we really connected with. We believe in these kind of stories, guys that have to show perseverance and great individual character. That matters. That matters in this league.”[/perfectpullquote]

Spoelstra and team president Pat Riley, could not hide their excitement at this year’s Draft pick, evidence that the 6-foot-10 ‘athletically gifted big man’ is the energy that could drive the Heat who picked him ‘for his background and the way he fits into the franchise’s hardworking culture.’

Riley’s comparison of the Nigerian-American to former six-time All-Star Shawn Kemp is an indication to show how much Adebayo means for Miami.


Toronto Raptors 2017 first round draft pick OG Anunoby holds a jersey as he poses for a picture after scrumming with journalists during a media availability in Toronto on Friday, June 23, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

The Canadian Press

Toronto Raptors’ No. 23 pick is one of mixed feelings clouded by the skepticism of his ability to be a consistent force in the NBA. Ogugua ‘OG’ Anunoby is somewhat seen as a risk because of early signs of injuries which for every athlete, is the worst hunchback to carry into a promising career.

But to tempt a comparison to San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard, on a top level as well as Portland Trail Blazers’ Aminu, is why the English-born power forward is without a doubt, considered a future prospect for the Raptors.

Defensively, he is a whole other topic. Seen as an instrumental integration of the Raptor’s defense, his versatility is the cream of a possibly exciting future.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”There were a lot of teams right behind us that were salivating to get him and we were lucky he fell to us at 23,”[/perfectpullquote]

said Raptors coach Dwane Casey.

“He can guard one through five, easily. He’s a P.J. Tucker clone, practically. That’s something that gives us some toughness and ability to switch things defensively. His size and strength and athleticism is a huge plus for us.”

Injury aside, the 6-foot-8 who played college basketball for the Indiana Hoosiers, is confident in his abilities to impact at a professional level most especially in defense.

“I think I can become the best defender in the league,” Anunoby told The Indianapolis Star in May.

“Strong enough, quick enough to guard anybody. I think I can guard five positions.”



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Wesley Iwundu was not your typical star-rated Draft pick let alone considered anywhere near a possible entry into the NBA. ‘His basketball career seemed to be coming closer to an end – at least in the US. The dream was dimming.’

But like the saying goes, hard work pays, it indeed paid off for the No. 33 draft pick whose impressive workouts with the Orlando Magic, slowly rose him up the ranks to turn a dream into a reality.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It’s a dream come true,”[/perfectpullquote]

Iwundu told Orlando Magic after the NBA Draft.

“I’m just taking it all in. I’m excited to get to Orlando, excited to meet my teammates, my new coaches, excited to meet everyone. I’m just happy right now.”

Starting from the bottom, Iwundu reinvented himself through an effective work ethic emerging him into a prospective perimeter defender and supporting player in attack and with more improvement on his shot, can be as lethal.

But there is still more to prove and probably throughout Iwundu’s entire NBA career, he will be required to adopt to the league’s tempo quickly enough while raising the bar all the way.

The 6-foot-7 from Kansas State has had to overcome doubts, a characteristic that speaks volumes because ‘he is a player who understands his strengths and his role, with the willingness to continue improving and a chip on his shoulder as someone to whom the NBA was really just a dream.’




Semi Ojeleye has been termed as a ‘physically imposing combo forward‘ and ‘serviceable playmaker’. The Boston Celtics should be pleased.

The 6-foot-7 combo forward already has a good sense of court awareness on offense with his ability to make the extra swing pass and find open teammates while drawing defenders out to open up for more options.

He can create his own chances with instinctual drives, close out attacks and open drive lanes.

Defensively, his presence backed by his athleticism, gives him ground to switch with the capability of covering 3s, 4s and potentially 5s.

“We were very excited that he was still there for us,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said, via the Boston Herald.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“We’re big fans. He’s a great kid and has a great work ethic. Again, very high character. He can shoot, and we needed a guy like him.[/perfectpullquote]

“Sometimes when we didn’t have a guy like Jae Crowder and got thin at those positions, and he gives us more depth with a 245-pound body that can make 3s.”

His intensity, strength, and multi-positional defensive skills will be his go-to strengths, making him a crucial player for the Boston Celtics on both ends of the court.

“Guys like Draymond (Green), Crowder, (DeMarre) Carroll, they definitely opened the door for a guy like me,” Ojeleye said at the Draft Combine.

“Being able to guard the 4 and being able to come off a ball screen, if you can do it all, it just makes you that much more valuable.”


MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 24: Ike Anigbogu #13 of the UCLA Bruins goes up with the ball against Isaac Humphries #15 of the Kentucky Wildcats in the first half during the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at FedExForum on March 24, 2017 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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Indiana Pacers pick Ike Anigbogu, may have a large part of his work cut out for him; he has the natural height and length – two major qualities that cannot be taught – and the body fit for the NBA, a worrying fact for offenses in the NBA.

Standing at 6-foot-10, with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, and 9-foot-2 standing reach, it will be exciting to see how the Nigerian-American will stop some of the league’s prominent shooters on the perimeter at the same time, intensify on his biggest strength – protecting the rim.

The biggest worry is that he is not ripe enough to go up against teams offensively, but that is no match to how his presence can effectively change the defensive ability of a team.

The DraftExpress said, “The intrigue with Anigbogu starts with his excellent frame, standing 6’10” with long arms, an excellent standing reach, and a strong lower body.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “He’s also quick on his feet, fast off the ground, changes direction well, has a very quick second jump, and brings a consistently high energy level, providing him with many of the attributes that NBA teams look for in the modern NBA big man.[/perfectpullquote]

“Those physical tools provide Anigbogu with a strong starting point, allowing him to make an impact even as his overall skill level catches up.”



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