2020 NBA Draft class features record-high number of players of Nigerian origin – Newstrends
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2020 NBA Draft class features record-high number of players of Nigerian origin

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More than the usual smattering of Nigerian eyes will be fixed on the NBA Draft on Wednesday, as a record-high chunk of the class is made up of Nigeria-origin players.
A total of seven players, two born in Nigeria, will be in consideration for pickup by some of the best basketball teams in the world.
Onyeka Okongwu is in the conversation for not just for the top 5 pick, but could well rival James Wiseman, Lamelo Ball, and Anthony Edwards for the number one overall pick.
Precious Achiuwa and Udoka Azubuike are the two who were born in Nigeria. If both are selected in the top 30, it would be the first time that two players from Nigeria are selected in the first round of the same NBA Draft.
Along with Achiuwa and Azubuike, there are also Onyeka Okongwu, Isaac Okoro, Zeke Nnaji, Daniel Oturu, and Jordan Nwora on the cards.
“I think it’s big,” Achiuwa said in a pre-Draft Zoom call with ESPN.
“It just shows there’s a big talent culture in Nigeria when it comes to basketball, athleticism and athletes as a whole in general.
“It speaks to how competitive we are and our willingness to be better in whatever we do.”
It is a testament both to how far the Nigerian community in the USA has come, and how much basketball has grown back home.
In 1984, when Akeem Olajuwon was drafted number one overall to the NBA — ahead of even Michael Jordan — he was the lone Nigerian, nay African, in that Draft Class.
It took another 10 years before the NBA drafted another player of Nigerian descent when the New Jersey Nets picked up Yinka Dare from George Washington, and another four years before Michael Olowokandi was drafted number one overall by the LA Clippers.
Thirty six years on from that first, pivotal draft, the 2020 NBA Draft Class — like the 2020 NFL Draft Class before it — boasts the highest number of players of Nigerian origin.
Nwora already represents Nigeria senior men’s basketball team. Oturu’s father, Francis, played table tennis for Nigeria.
Okongwu is in the conversation for not just for the top 5 pick, but could well rival James Wiseman, Lamelo Ball, and Anthony Edwards for the number one overall pick, and he is not shy about it.
“I feel like I’m higher than all of them,” he told ESPN. “I just do all the little things well. I just play basketball. I know how to win.”
Also projected to be a high pick is Isaac Okoro, the 6’6 shooting guard/small forward from Auburn.
All told, there are more than 30 current and former NBA players with Nigerian roots, including the likes of Andre Iguodala, Victor Oladipo, Bam Adebayo, and the Antetokounmpo brothers, led of course by legendary Hall of Famer Olajuwon.
Achiuwa said that it is a trend the current class will seek to carry on: “I think we have the opportunity to keep that legacy going, especially that Nigerian representation in the NBA.”
That representation has been helped in no small part by the work of a man who himself was in a similar position some 20 years ago.
Former Nigeria captain Olumide Oyedeji was drafted out of German team DJK Wurzburg [Dirk Nowitzki played there too] and has run basketball camps every year in Nigeria for 20 straight years until this year’s COVID-19 interruption.
Over 35 000 kids have passed through the camp in those 20 years, including Azubuike.
Oyedeji, who played three seasons in the NBA, projects that the number will rise in the future and also expects the players to continue to light the way for others.
“We are a country of about 200 million people and with the way Nigerians are migrating to the USA, don’t be surprised to see 20 in the next Draft Classes in the future,” Oyedeji told ESPN.
“We already have three projected to go in the lottery this year.
“It is a positive thing and I feel proud. For other people back home, it is just the same way. We just have to translate it to sports development back home.
“And they should know and remember where they come from because it goes beyond basketball.”
Pivotal to the increase in Nigerian names in the NBA is Fubara Onyanabo, a man whom many in Nigeria have barely heard of, but has mentored a long list of players, including some currently representing in Nigeria’s national team.
Achiuwa was not shy about paying tribute to Fubura, who coached the player’s elder brother: “He is doing a great job, advancing the game and making sure that the kids back home have a way to learn the game.
“He is providing resources for the kids and I think that that is absolutely big having someone that is so passionate about basketball back home. I think that is really important.”
Onyanabo, who has coached Nigeria’s national teams at various age levels, has been doing so since 2009. With no resources, he poured his heart and soul and money into running the basketball camps.
While he is gratified to see that his passion is bearing fruit thousands of miles away on a global stage, even if indirectly, his priorities are set differently.
“For me, it is a passion and a calling,” Onyanabo told ESPN. “After my playing career ended, I found that although kids around me loved basketball and loved watching the NBA, they did not have the right skills to play, so I decided to start training them.
“For me, it is not about talents that are exported outside Nigeria. It is the ability to keep these young people busy and channel their energy towards positive and productive ventures here in Nigeria.
“My fulfilment is the ability to put smiles on the faces of these kids. They don’t pay to learn or play basketball. We just want to keep them happy and away from trouble.”
Along with the Nigerians in the Draft Class, there is also some other history to be made at an African level.
The Draft also includes Mamadi Diakite, who was born in Guinea, Paul Eboua, born in Cameroon, Karim Mane and Lamine Diane, both born in Senegal. If they are all drafted it would break the record for the most players to be drafted from the continent. Four were drafted in 2016.
Whatever happens, Oyedeji has some words of advice: “The work starts when they are drafted. They have to be ready at all times, even if they are on the bench. Always be ready to be the next man up.”

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Euro 2024: Spain beat Italy 1-0, England play 1-1 with Denmark

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Euro 2024: Spain beat Italy 1-0, England play 1-1 with Denmark

Spain have qualified for the second round of the ongoing 2024 UEFA European Championship.

The Luis de la Fuente side became the second team to book the competition knockout ticket after defeating Italy 1-0 at the Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, on Thursday.

A second-half own goal conceded by Riccardo Carlafiori was the sole difference, sending Spain top of Group B with six points.

Italy, the defending champions, cut a timid apparition of themselves throughout the game, and the scoreline was kept respectable by Gianluigi Donnarumma’s saves.

But even the goalkeeper was helpless in the 55th minute after he had gone down to save a header from Alvaro Morata, and the ball ricocheted off the shin of Carlafiori and into the net.

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In the other games of the day, England were dealt a reality check and held to a 1-1 draw against Denmark.

The Three Lions had taken the lead after Harry Kane stroked the ball home from the six-yard area.

Shortly, the Danes responded with a sublime strike from Marten Hjulmand from 30 yards out. The shot flew beyond the stretched limb of Jordan Pickford into the net.

Slovenia and Serbia also played out a one-all draw earlier in the day.

Euro 2024: Spain beat Italy 1-0, England play 1-1 with Denmark

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Mohammed Kudus leaving W’Ham summer, Man Utd stake £33.8m on Joshua Zirkzee

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Mohammed Kudus

Mohammed Kudus leaving W’Ham summer, Man Utd stake £33.8m on Joshua Zirkzee

West Ham fear Ghana winger Mohammed Kudus, 23, will ask to leave the club this summer. (Football Insider)

Liverpool are pursuing Turkey’s 19-year-old attacking midfielder Arda Guler from Real Madrid(Teamtalk)

Fulham have revived their interest in  Chelsea‘s 24-year-old English defender Trevoh Chalobah. (Standard)

Aston Villa have enquired about the availability of 21-year-old Argentinean midfielder Matias Soule, but Juventus say he is not for sale. (Sky Sports)

 Chelsea are in talks with Boca Juniors over a deal for 19-year-old Argentinean defender Aaron Anselmino. (Athletic – subscription required)

Manchester United are preparing to trigger the £33.8m release clause in the contract of Bologna‘s 23-year-old Dutch striker Joshua Zirkzee. (Telegraph – subscription required)

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Manchester United will walk away from talks with Everton for English defender Jarrad Branthwaite, 21, unless the Toffees lower their £70m asking price. (ESPN)

Everton are increasingly confident of keeping hold of the centre-back this summer. (I Sport)

Lille defender Leny Yoro, 18, favours a move to Real Madrid over Liverpool or Manchester United(Marca – in Spanish)

Former AC Milan boss Stefano Pioli is among the candidates to become Al-Ittihad manager. (Fabrizio Romano)

Paris St-Germain and Netherlands midfielder Xavi Simons, 21, is Bayern Munich‘s primary transfer target. (Bild – in German)

Arsenal have made a bid for Fenerbahce‘s Turkey full-back Ferdi Kadioglu, 24. (Ajan Spor – in Turkish)

Southampton and Brighton have made offers to IFK Gothenburg for 18-year-old Malian midfielder Malick Yalcouye. (Caught offside)

Mohammed Kudus leaving W’Ham summer, Man Utd stake £33.8m on Joshua Zirkzee

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Eagles drop 8 spots to 38th in latest FIFA rankings

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Eagles drop 8 spots to 38th in latest FIFA rankings

The recent poor outings of Super Eagles of Nigeria have reflected in the rating of the team.

The team dropped eight places from 30th to 38th in the world based on FIFA’s latest rankings.

According to the list released on Thursday by the world football governing body, the three-time African champions have also moved two steps behind to the fifth-best team on the continent.

Nigeria’s current rating is due to uninspiring results in the just-concluded round of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

In June, the Eagles drew 1-1 against South Africa in their fourth game of the qualifiers and lost 2-1 to the Benin Republic in the following match.

The team’s latest string of performances condemned Nigeria to fifth place in the qualification group, having previously drawn against Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

The results also mounted pressure on the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), which announced it would appoint an “expatriate” technical adviser for the team.

Shortly after the NFF’s announcement, George Finidi resigned as the Super Eagles head coach after just two games in charge.

Morocco and Senegal maintained their lead as the best African teams, while Egypt and Cote d’Ivoire climbed to third and fourth on the continent.

Argentina remained number one globally, with France and Belgium in second and third.

Brazil leapfrogged England to fourth in the global rankings.

The next FIFA world ranking will be released on July 18, 2024.

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