NEW YORK, United States of America, June 26, 2023/ — Twelve international players from eight countries were selected: three in the first round and nine in the second round. Seven players, either born in Africa or with direct ties to the continent, were among last night’s international draftees.
Nigeria’s James Nnaji said on draft night: “For me, it’s a very special moment. For me coming from Africa, never having this dream to play in the NBA, and all of a sudden things started to change, started coming my way. It’s one of the most exciting moments of my life. I’m really excited to have this opportunity.”
Please find the photos attached (please credit (NBAE/Getty Images) and below storylines about the African players selected in the NBA Draft. Transcripts of media availability sessions with draftees in attendance are available at (https://apo-opa.info/44gxVJb).
NBA Draft 2023 presented by State Farm®
Victor Wembanyama (France, ties to the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Metropolitans 92) was selected 1st overall by the San Antonio Spurs, becoming the 14th international player to be selected first overall and the highest-drafted French player ever. This year, Wembanyama became the youngest player ever to win MVP of France’s LNB after averaging 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. There have been more NBA players from France than from any other country outside North America, including nine last season. This marks the eighth consecutive year that a French player was drafted.
Bilal Coulibaly (France, ties to Mali; Metropolitans 92) was selected 7th overall by the Indiana Pacers and traded to the Washington Wizards, marking the first time ever that two French players were selected in the top 10. Coulibaly played with Wembanyama for Metropolitans 92 in the LNB, splitting the 2022-23 season between the top pro league in France and its under-21 league.
James Nnaji (Nigeria; FC Barcelona) was selected 31st overall by the Detroit Pistons, becoming the fifth player from Nigeria to be selected in the last five years. Nnaji, who started playing basketball in 2016, has two seasons of experience playing for FC Barcelona in the ACB and EuroLeague. In 2018, Nnaji participated in a Giants of Africa camp, an organization founded by Toronto Raptors Vice-Chairman and President Masai Ujiri, who is also from Nigeria. Opening-night rosters for the 2022-23 NBA season featured a record-tying five players from Nigeria, 16 players from Africa, and more than 50 players with at least one parent from Africa. In total, there have been more than 125 NBA players either born in Africa or with at least one parent from Africa.
Mouhamed Gueye (Senegal; Washington State University) was selected 39th overall by the Charlotte Hornets.
Rayan Rupert (France, ties to Morocco; New Zealand Breakers) was selected 43rd overall by the Portland Trail Blazers. Rupert played this past season for the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL) as part of the Next Stars Program, which has helped develop LaMelo Ball, Ousmane Dieng, Josh Giddey and R.J. Hampton into NBA players in recent years.
Sidy Cissoko (France, ties to Senegal; NBA G League Ignite) was selected 44th overall by the San Antonio Spurs, marking the second consecutive season and third time ever that at least four French players were selected (2022, 2016). Cissoko was the first European-born prospect to play for NBA G League Ignite.
Toumani Camara (Belgium, ties to Mali; University of Dayton) was selected 52nd overall by the Phoenix Suns, becoming the second Belgian player to be drafted into the NBA (Axel Hervelle in 2005).