The Nigerian national basketball team is currently the only African team to qualify for the Olympic Games and head coach Mike Brown hopes the addition of NBA veterans Monte Morris (Denver Nuggets) and OG Anunoby (Toronto Raptors) will help them make history.
Last week, Brown spoke to The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears, stating his belief that the influx of NBA players of African descent has helped level the playing field, giving the Nigeria a realistic chance to win their first medal at the Olympic Games.
“There are more players of Nigerian descent in the NBA than probably any other country besides the U.S…the talent is there. It’s just about getting everybody organized and on the same page and getting everybody excited about playing and wanting to be a part. And so there are right around 10 or so guys in the NBA that are going to come and try out for the team. So looking forward to mixing some of that NBA talent with some very talented individuals that are playing professionally in Europe and abroad.”
According to Spears, forward Al-Farouq Aminu (Chicago Bulls), center Chimezie Metu (Sacramento Kings), guard Josh Okogie (Minnesota Timberwolves), center Jahlil Okafor (Detroit Pistons) and forward Wes Iwundu (New Orleans Pelicans) are expected to join Morris and Anunoby. He adds that former NBA players Emeka Okafor, Festus Ezeli and Ben Uzoh could also join the roster.
Per Nigerian journalist Colin Udoh, guard Miye Oni and center Udoka Azubuike of the Utah Jazz; guard Gabe Vincent and forwards KZ Okpala and Precious Achiuwa of the Miami Heat; and Milwaukee Bucks forward Jordan Nwora will also join the list of 13 NBA players expected to comprise the Nigerian national team.
With the FIBA AfroBasket tournament quickly approaching as well, Brown may have to field two national teams for Nigeria to compete in the Olympics and AfroBasket, respectively.
If this is the case, expect wing Aaron Nesmith (Boston Celtics), forward Zeke Nnaji (Denver Nuggets), guard Desmond Bane (Memphis Grizzlies) and guard Spencer Dinwiddie (Brooklyn Nets) to be in consideration for national team roster spots as well.
Morris, who’s nationality switch was made known officially in March, will join the team as a roster exemption and make his international debut with Nigeria.
In 47 games, the four-year pro has averaged 10.2 points, 2.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting .479 percent from the field and .393 percent from 3-point range.
Anunoby is a player that Brown had on his radar since taking over as the Nigeria coach two years ago and seeing his name on the roster has brought excitement and energy to the Nigerian basketball program.
In 43 games, Anunoby showed flashes of why the Raptors consider him one of the cornerstones of their franchise with averages of 15.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
Nigeria, which became the first African team to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after the 2019 FIBA World Cup, will be in group B alongside Australia, and the winners of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia and Croatia from June 29 to July 4.
D’Tigers, who will also led by longtime team captain Ike Diogu, face Team USA’s men’s basketball team in the Olympics on July 10.