Basketball: Jahlil Okafor to play for Nigeria at Olympics

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Jahlil Okafor

New Orleans Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor has opted to play for the Nigeria Basketball team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the newly appointed D’Tigers coach Mike Brown has said.

The 24 year-old qualifies to play for Nigeria through his paternal grandfather who immigrated to the US from Nigeria as a 20-year-old.

Okafor was named the MVP of the 2012 FIBA Under-17 World Cup in Lithuania, playing for the gold medal-winning United States team and also won the FIBA World U19 Cup in Czech Republic a year later.

The former Duke University star was selected with the third overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers and played a season with Brooklyn Nets before joining his present club in 2018.

The 6ft 10in Chicago native has averaged 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in five seasons in the NBA.

Okafor joins fellow NBA players like Minnesota Timberwolves forward Josh Okogie, Miami Heats’ guard Vincent Nnamdi and Chimezie Metu of the San Antonio Spurs in the current D’Tigers roster and could signal more NBA players of Nigerian descent switching allegiance to Nigeria.

Nigeria secured qualification to the Olympics by finishing as the highest-placed African team at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.