Heat’s Precious Achiuwa, KZ Okpala, Gabe Vincent make Nigeria’s Olympic roster

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In what was a case of expected news, the Miami Heat trio of center Precious Achiuwa, forward KZ Okpala and guard Gabe Vincent made Nigeria’s men’s national basketball Olympic roster, the Nigerian Basketball Federation announced Monday.

It was anticipated that the Heat trio would be on the Nigerian team’s 12-players roster for the Olympics after their contributions during the team’s pre-Olympics exhibitions, which included an 90-87 over Team USA on July 10.

Vincent, whose father is from Nigeria, scored a game-high 21 points in Nigeria’s win over the U.S.

The 25-year-old who’s an impending free agent after being on two-way deal with the Heat for the last two seasons goes by Gabe Nnamdi while representing the Nigerian national team.

“When I went back home, and I introduced myself as Gabe, they said, ‘What is your name?’ I said, ‘It’s Vincent, Gabe Vincent.’” he said following Nigeria’s win over Team USA. “And they looked at me crazy and said, ‘No, what is your name?’ And I said, ‘Nnamdi.’ And they said, ‘OK, nice to meet you.’

“So, I took that as that’s very much part of my culture, and when I do put on that uniform and have ‘Nigeria’ across my chest, I put that name on the back. Because that’s how my people back home recognize me.”

Nigeria is coached by Mike Brown, who’s currently an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors after previously being the head coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers.

Achiuwa, who the Heat selected with the No. 20 pick in the 2020 NBA draft, and Okpala, who the Heat picked up in the 2019 draft’s second round, drew considerable praise from Brown recently.

Both Achiuwa and Okpala started in Nigeria’s win over the U.S.

“He’s so talented,” Brown said of Achiuwa. “He has so much ability and you couple that with his passion, his athleticism and how hard he plays, once, as a young guy, he figures it out to be able to sustain that level of hard play every single possession, he’s going to be a monster in the NBA.”

Brown said Nigeria is going to use Okpala in a “little unique” way defensively.

“We’re going to use him similar to how we do Draymond Green a little bit in Golden State, where he’ll guard everybody at different times,” he added. “But his potential on that side of the ball is remarkable.

“And these are high expectations, but the short time I’ve had him, he could be a Defensive Player of the Year type candidate once he figures some things out to get consistent minutes on the floor.”

Josh Okogie (Minnesota Timberwolves), Jahlil Okafor (Detroit Pistons), Miye Oni (Utah Jazz), Jordan Nwora (Milwaukee Bucks) and Chimezie Metu (Sacramento Kings) are other current NBA players on Nigeria’s Olympics roster.

Obi Emegano (Fuenlbrada, Spain), Ike Nwamu (Samara, Russia) and Caleb Agada (Hapoel Be’er Sheva) and former NBA big man Ekpe Udoh (Virtus Bologna, Italy) round out Nigeria’s roster.

Nigeria will open its Olympic schedule with a preliminary round matchup against Australia on Sunday in Japan.

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