Doumbouya leads African starlets at NBA draft
The 2019 NBA Draft was seen as Zion Williamson’s night and as anticipated Williamson from Duke University was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans with the number one pick in the draft. But African eyes were focused on Sekou Doumbouya. The 19-year-old Frenchman, born in Conakry in Guinea, was selected 15th overall by the Detroit Pistons. His NBA dream starts off in Motor City under the tutelage of former NBA coach of the year Dwane Casey. He will have fellow African player and former First Round selection Thon Maker to help make this adjustment a little easier.
The Pistons are getting a versatile player who is defense focused, he can play the power forward and a small forward positions very effectively. Having played professional basketball in France, most recently with French team Limoges CSP, the transition to a ‘work hard’ mindset won’t be difficult. He’s seen as raw on offense but with a massive upside he could be the boost the Pistons need in the future. When you have Andre Drummond on your team you have a defensively minded mentor in close proximity. There is star-wattage in Blake Griffin who will have valuable insight in how to handle the spotlight and how to approach the game on both ends of the floor. There are also numerous hard working players in the team that Doumbouya can lean on when he requires it. Doumbouya participated in the 2018 Basketball Without Borders Global camp, which was held in Los Angeles as part of NBA All-Star 2018. Doumbouya is keen to become the next African star to make his mark on the NBA, he’s been following the successes of the players who he will be facing next season, “Siakam, Ibaka. Everybody. It's a big inspiration for the African people, African players. Yeah, I'm proud of that.”
There are a number of other African players who are first or second generation Africans, who were picked up by teams in the 2019 draft and the next one on the list is Rui Hachimura who was selected 9th overall by the Washington Wizards and is from Japan but his father hails from Benin. Hachimura played in the NCAA for Gonzaga and represented the Bulldogs playing both small forward and power forward. The newly minted Wizards player became the first Japanese player ever selected in the first round and the second Japanese player ever to be drafted, joining Yasutaka Okayama (171st overall in 1981). Hachimura participated in the 2016 Basketball Without Borders Global camp, which was held in Toronto as part of NBA All-Star 2016, and becomes the ninth former BWB camper drafted in the top 10 in the last five years.
Drafted at number 16 by the Orlando Magic is Chuma Okeke. The Nigerian-American forward played for the Auburn Tigers and was seen as a real prospect averaging 12 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game. However he torn his ACL in his just finished sophomore season. He’s expected to make a full recovery and joins other African players Evan Fournier (French-Algerian) Mo Bamba (Ivorian-American) and Wes Iwundu (Nigerian-American) at the Magic.
Next up is Mfiondu Kabengele. He is a Canadaian with Congolese parents and is the nephew of Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer and NBA Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo. Kabengele was selected 27th overall by the Brooklyn Nets and was then traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. He is a 6’10” center who can also play the power forward position. Kabengele’s selection set the record for most Canadian players (4) drafted in the first round. Kabangele was able to talk to his uncle Mutombo and get some words of wisdom from him before the draft experience, “He's always flown us out to family events, graduations, Christmas, Thanksgiving. So when basketball started to get involved, it was probably going to my freshman year, my Elite Eight run. Just picking his brain and asking him a lot of questions. And by me doing that, I think he recognized that I was very interested and poised about the game and the next level. So that's when it grew to picking his brain about how to eat, the nutrition, the day-to-day, challenges you would face off the court and on the court. He's given me so many gems that I'm going to add to my life, especially in Los Angeles and even though it's a bit further from home. All those lessons I'm going to carry with me. So I'm very thankful for him.”
Nigerian-American Chikezie ‘KZ’ Okpala was born in California to Nigerian parents. Okpala was selected 32nd overall by the Phoenix Suns. Standing at 6’8” he plays both the small forward and power forward positions and represented Stanford in college. Other notable African players that he links up with at the Suns are 2018 number one pick Deandre Ayton who is from the Bahamas but has a Nigerian mother and Congolese-French point guard Elie Okobo.
Bruno Fernando from Angola is listed as 6’10” and plays the Power Forward position. He was selected 34th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers and traded to the Atlanta Hawks, becoming the first Angolan player ever drafted and marking the 12th time in 13 years that at least one player from Africa was drafted.
Bol Bol was born in Khartoum, Sudan and is the son of African NBA legend Manute Bol. He was selected 44th overall by the Miami Heat and traded to the Denver Nuggets. The 7’2” center will be hopeful of a long career in Denver where he can learn from another intentional big man in Nikola Jokic.
Marial Shayok was born in Ottowa Canada to Sudanese parents and played for Iowa State University. Shayok was selected 54th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Olumiye “Miye” Oni was born in the USA to Nigerian parents. The Nigerian-American shooting guard played his college basketball at Yale and was selected 58th overall by the Golden State Warriors. He joins a short list of players who attended Ivy league universities that have gone on to be recruited into the NBA.