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Nigeria's Nwora: ''Playing for D'Tigers made me a better player''
MILWAUKEE (USA) - Years of wishful thinking, hard work on and off the court and resilience finally paid off for Nigerian basketballer Jordan Nwora after he was drafted into the NBA as a second round pick by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Nwora, who landed in Milwaukee as the 45th pick, had relished the idea of competing in what he considered the most notorious basketball league in the world for a long time and finally it had come to pass.
"SUITING UP FOR NIGERIA WAS JUST AN AMAZING EXPERIENCE."
But reminiscing on his path to NBA, the Buffalo native points out to how competing for Nigeria, Africa's most populated nation and one of the continent's basketball powerhouses, prepared him for the adversity and rigours of the NBA.
"Suiting up for Nigeria was just an amazing experience," Nwora told FIBA.basketball in an exclusive interview, "I was able to play with professionals and guys who were in the NBA and playing with them came with a really rich experience.
"Playing alongside guys like Ike Diogu and Josh Okogie who have so much experience in international basketball was very enriching. They really helped me alot and I feel like I really grew quickly playing with those guys.
"I was fortunate that I played a lot at Louisville and whenever I played with Nigeria, it was something very big for me. It helped me expand my game, playing at a high level and prepared me for the next level."
When Nwora first donned the legendary green jersey of D'Tigers of Nigeria, he was just 19 and there were fears the 2.03m (6ft 8in) small forward could crack under the weight of the side's prestigious history.
But "Air Jordan" as Nwora is nicknamed brushed the pressure off his shoulders as he hit the court for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 African Qualifiers and it took him just three games to display his pedigree.
Throughout the event, Nwora averaged team-best 21.7 points and eight rebounds and sent fans into a frenzy with an astonishing 36 points in a 93-53 win against Mali to establish a new record as Nigeria's leading scorer in a single game in a major tournament.
But not even that performance could bloat Nwora's ego. Nigeria had a number of experienced players within the roster to keep him level headed and the presence of his father Alex Nwora, who was Nigeria's head coach further fueled his zeal for success.
"It was the first time I was playing for my father with him being the coach," Nwora giggled adding,"Of all the coaches I've played for, he was one of the hardest persons I've ever worked with.
"But he was also hard on the entire team and I understood it was for Nigeria's best interest to have a good team. All that hard work paid off with Nigeria qualifying for the Olympics and for me it was an interesting period.
"Playing in the Qualifiers was a very unique experience for me because initially people thought I was in the team because my Dad was the coach but when I went in and performed, they realized perhaps I could bring something to the side."
"Featuring in the qualifiers and subsequently the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup changed my life in a peculiar way."
"Being so young, that was an amazing experience that a lot of players my age back then do not get. It helped to build my confidence and it was great because I learned a lot.
"Playing against teams like Argentina with great players and professionals who have been doing this for decades was just unbelievable. I spent two months with a couple of these talented players and i was able to discover a couple of things because this was a once in a lifetime experience."
Nwora churned 11 points and 3.5 rebounds at the global basketball bonanza in China and even though Nigeria exited at the first hurdle, the ability to deal with the sort of adversity inherent in the tournament edified the former Louisville star on what competing in a league attracting supreme talents could look like.
When asked what life could be like in the NBA playing for the Milwaukee Bucks, Nwora who was named ACC most improved player last year noted that he'll be hoping to have an instant impact.
"I feel I can make an instant impact going into the NBA," Nwora said. "I'm someone who can step in and play right away obviously as I came out of college as a veteran player.
"I had a wonderful experience playing with professionals early whenever I went to play in the national team and I sort of know what to expect.
"I'm a good shooter, I can rebound but I'm more willing to do what the team needs me to do because I'm grateful I can be here and I'm just thankful that I can learn and improve on my game"
In continuation of our count down to the 2019 FIBA World Cup, we will focus on Jordan Nwora contribution to the D'Tigers qualification for the apex FIBA event.— #NBBF (@nbbfonline) March 31, 2019
Grab your pop corn, relax and enjoy #NBBF#FIBAWC#NigeriaGotGame https://t.co/ZfpiyoA2ZY
Now that Nwora's fevered fantasy of playing in the NBA is a reality, the Nigerian hopes he can impress and contribute significantly to the growth of basketball back in his country.
"There's just a lot of talent back home but at times not all the good players get noticed. I hope I can perform and inspire several youngsters to believe in themselves via several projects.
"Hopefully we can have camps that can help grow the game and I'm just upbeat it's going to get better with time and we can make a significant impact back home."
Nwora spends the most part of his day, training, watching videos and thinking about how he can be a better version of himself as a player and person but when he's off court, he's in the company of his siblings doing one of his preferred hobbies, cooking.
"I love cooking," Nwora said chuckling." I actually took a cooking class back in the days and when I decided I wanted to cook, I really did some good stuff."
"I think I'm better off cooking Italian dishes compared to Nigerian food and it's funny because my favorite meal is pounded yam and egusi soup," Nwora concluded as he looks forward to having an astonishing rookie season in the NBA