Jahlil Okafor Commits to Play for Nigeria at 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IFebruary 24, 2020

New Orleans Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor (8) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

New Orleans Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor told ESPN's Marc J. Spears Sunday night that he will play for the Nigerian men's basketball team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"Okafor's grandfather Chicko Okafor hails from Enugu, Nigeria," Spears added.

Mike Brown was announced as the program's head coach earlier this month. Brown has been an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors since the 2016-17 season after previously serving as head coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers.

Okafor has competed for the U.S. in the past. The 22-year-old has won gold medals in the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship, '12 FIBA U17 World Championships and '11 FIBA Americas U16 Championship, according to USA Basketball's official website.

Okafor's NBA career was derailed by injury after the Philadelphia 76ers selected him third overall out of Duke in 2015. He suffered a season-ending meniscus tear during his rookie year. The Sixers traded him to the Brooklyn Nets in December 2017, but he only played 26 games for the Nets. Overall in the 2017-18 campaign, Okafor played just 28 games.

Since signing with New Orleans in August 2018 as a free agent, Okafor has averaged 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 15.8 minutes across 86 games (33 starts). So far this season, he has been limited to 27 games. He is averaging 7.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 15.6 minutes.

Team USA announced the 44 finalists for the Olympic roster earlier this month, and Okafor was not on it.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Josh Okogie, who praised Brown during All-Star Weekend festivities last weekend, will join Okafor on Nigeria's roster.

Tokyo will mark a third consecutive Olympic appearance for the Nigerian men's basketball team.