Posted by By Pius Ayinor on
Even in absentia, homeboy, Ejike Ugboaja, made history on Wednesday when he was drafted into the lucrative American NBA as the 54th Pick.....
Even in absentia, homeboy, Ejike Ugboaja, made history on Wednesday when he was drafted into the lucrative American NBA as the 54th Pick for Cleveland Cavaliers despite being denied visa by the US embassy in Nigeria.
The Union Bank player who is currently in the country was drafted in absentia. He could not secure visa from the American Embassy in Lagos when he tried traveling to the United states ahead of the 2006 Draft day. He could also not join the national team camping in the USA for the 2006 FIBA World Champi-onship tagged Japan 2006.
His draft follows many weeks of speculation as the Phoenix Suns showed keen interest just like the Cavs. The period was full of waiting and suspense as several inquiries came from across the world to Nigeria including THISDAY basketball desk on details of the player.
The Centre/forward who plays for the local Union Bank team in the Premier Basketball League becomes the first Nigerian (indeed the first Afriican) player that would join the NBA straight from the local league.
Hakeem Olajuwon who set the pace was drafted as number one pick in 1984 from Texas State University in the US. Another Nigerian number one draft, Michael Olowokandi, was selected also from England where he was born.
The others who have made it to the biggest league on earth in the persons of Olumide Oyedeji, Julius Nwosu and a few others were either drafted from Europe or were signed from other lesser leagues in the USA.
Ejike who spoke with THISDAY yesterday said he gives all credit to God.
"I know I worked; I tried hard to remain in shape but this definitely God's doing and I give all glory.
"Naturally I am quite happy and excited and I pray everything works out well," he said.
With his draft, he becomes the second Nigerian currently in the NBA. National team, The Tigers, swing man, Ime Udoka was signed on by New York Knicks just as the last play off began.
Ejike a former junior international for Nigeria got the international attention when he featured for Nigeria in the Common-wealth Games held in Sydney, Australia last March. He was voted the best Nigerian player and second best overall in the basketball tournament. International scouts then kept the tabs on him until he was picked Wednesday night.
In the regular season of the League this term, he was voted the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in more than one occasion. The player is now expected to join his colleague in the Nigeria camp in Vegas where he would fight for a shirt to Japan in the field of other talented players as well.
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