Our next interviewee for our series of Meeting Top International Prospects with NetScouts Basketball is the Irish big Ndonwawanne (ND) Okafor. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, the 6-foot-9 athletic frontcourt player grew up in Ireland, where he made his first basketball steps at age 12 after his family moved to the country to look for better job opportunities.
The 2022 recruit had a breakout performance at the 2019 U16 Division B European Championships in Montenegro, where he led the event in rebounding (14.3) and blocks (5.0), averaging also a solid 16.1 points in 29 minutes of playing action per game. After his impressive showcase there, he started to receive great interest from American colleges.
ND has chosen to hone his skills at the NBA Academy Latin America, while looking for more college offers. Currently he holds several offers from high-major programs – Arizona, TCU, Creighton and Rutgers.
- Hello ND! Hope you and your family are doing well in this time of pandemic. Can you tell us more about how you’ve been spending your time during the COVID-19 situation? What was your main focus in improving your skill set?
During the COVID-19 pandemic I have been working out in my country. It was definitely a difficult time. The NBA Academy sent all the players back home to their families. They gave us equipment for us to travel. Our strength and conditioning coach would send give us workouts to do every day.
- How did you start playing basketball? There were many players with a Nigerian background recently drafted for the NBA. Do you think that background provides advantages?
I started playing basketball at age 12. My friends and family encouraged me to try, but at that time I was more into soccer. As soon as I started playing, I fell in love with the sport and kept playing. As a child I was always bigger than others. I also think the length of my arms is another advantage of mine that derives from my origins.
- Why did you choose your career path to continue by moving to NBA Academy Latin America instead of picking one of the many high school offers in the USA?
I felt like the NBA Academy Latin America will gain for me more exposure to NBA scouts and college coaches. I also believe that the NBA Academies are very well structured and are good in developing players.
- At the 2019 U16 Division B European Championships in Montenegro you had a breakout performance. How this experience affected your recruitment process? How difficult do you think it is for someone from Ireland to be seen, competing only in his country?
My performance at the U16 Division B European Championships in Montenegro really helped me get exposure and college coaches’ interests, eventually leading to offers. Coming from Ireland and experiencing basketball in Ireland I think it is very hard to get noticed in Ireland. I don’t know the reason why but there is a lot of hidden talent in Ireland.
- Currently you are holding several offers from high-major programs in the USA. What do you think you can offer to a high-major school and what style of basketball and position you think fit you most?
I think I can offer a lot to a high-major college team. In my opinion I can come in right away and have impact on the game. I feel like I can adapt to any type of style of basketball the team wants to play.
- What are you specifically looking for when recruited by colleges? Do you have any school preferences?
Right now, I do not have any preferences on colleges. I’m not really focused on colleges until it’s time to make a decision.
My expectation is to have more offers and my goal is to improve on everything in my game. The pros and cons to my game are that I can shoot the ball off a pick and pop really good, while also can play very good on the defensive end of the floor, switching and helping. I’ll run the floor and catch lobs. One of the things I need to work on most is my 3-point shot.
- What are your long-term goals, where do you envision yourself playing in 5 years?
In 5 years, I see myself playing professionally. My goal is to reach the NBA and be the best player I can be on the court and to eventually help out my family and friends.
Some players I’m watching and studying the way they play are Michael Porter Jr., Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ben Simmons. I relate to those players because I have been watching them before they went to the NBA and since I’ve been following their journey.
- Which is your best on-court memory?
My best on-court memory was beating Georgia at the U16 European Championships in Podgoritsa, Montenegro in the summer of 2019, because that was a big win for us at the time.
- What is your basketball schedule in a normal da•y?
I have classes for 4 hours in the morning. After classes we practice individually, then we go to the gym. A few hours after the workout in the gym we head to class for another 4 hours, then we have a team practice in the night.
I like reading novels or watching film on players or playing video games in my spare time.
Thanks for your time ND! We hope you have a successful and healthy season!