James Nnaji among 12 international players In 2023 NBA Draft

Giant of Africa graduate, Nigeria’s James Nnaji, is among 12 international players from eight countries in the 2023 National Basketball Association (NBA) draft released by State Farm on Thursday.

Nnaji was selected 31st overall by the Detroit Pistons, becoming the fifth player from Nigeria to be selected in the last five years. He started playing basketball in 2016 and has two seasons of experience playing for FC Barcelona in the ACB and EuroLeague.

In 2018, Nnaji participated in a Giants of Africa camp, an organisation founded by Toronto Raptors Vice-Chairman and President, Masai Ujiri, who is also from Nigeria.

Opening-night rosters for the 2022-23 NBA season featured a record-tying five players from Nigeria, 16 players from Africa, and more than 50 players with at least one parent from Africa.

In total, there have been more than 125 NBA players either born in Africa or with at least one parent from Africa.

The other players in the 2023 draft are Senegal’s Mouhamed Gueye of Washington State University, who was selected 39th overall by the Charlotte Hornets; Morocco’s Rayan Rupert from New Zealand Breakers, selected 43rd overall by the Portland Trail Blazers; Sidy Cissoko, a Franco-Senegalese player drafted from NBA G League Ignite as 44th overall by the San Antonio Spurs, and Mali’s Toumani Camara, drafted from University of Dayton as the 52nd overall pick by the Phoenix Suns.

The NBA Draft 2023 was held at Barclays Centre, Brooklyn, New York and reached fans in 214 countries and territories in 32 languages.

Of the 12 international players from eight countries selected, three were in the first round and nine in the second round. Seven players, either born in Africa or with direct ties to the continent, were among Thursday night’s international draftees.

Speaking on the draft, Nnaji said: “For me, it’s a very special moment. For me coming from Africa, never having this dream to play in the NBA, and all of a sudden things started to change, started coming my way. It’s one of the most exciting moments of my life. I’m really excited to have this opportunity.”