Nwora works on his game while with Herd

Jacob Link, Co-Sports Editor

Milwaukee Bucks small forward Jordan Nwora has been playing down with the Wisconsin Herd of the G League to get more minutes and improve his game. Nwora has averaged 7.8 points per game this season with the Bucks and has made an impact playing with the Herd. In three games with the Herd, Nwora has averaged 26 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.

“The goal is just to win. Other than that, my goal is to play my game, get reps in. Really just getting ready. There are nights I play with the Bucks, there are nights I don’t. [They] send me up here to get ready, instead of getting the day off. I know it will get me better,” Nwora said.

Nwora talked a little bit about the difference between the G League and the NBA. “They’re different. Obviously, it’s different going from playing with Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Khris [Middleton], and Jrue [Holiday] to coming up here and playing in a gym and really being the guy. At the end of the day, I get to come up here and get a lot of reps in. You just need to work on stuff you have been working on and translate that to when you get to play in the NBA,” said Nwora.

Photo: Jacob Gralton, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Forward Jordan Nwora plays defense as a sophomore at Louisville

Nwora was born on Sept. 9, 1998, in Buffalo, New York. Nwora’s father, Alexander, is the former head coach of the Nigerian men’s national team. It was Alexander Nwora who helped his son hone in on his basketball skills and play at a world-class level.
The 6’-8’’ forward made a name for himself in high school at The Park School of Buffalo where he led the Pioneers to the New York State Federation Class B basketball championship in 2015. The Pioneers won the state title 70-51, with Nwora averaging 21.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game that season. Nwora would see these numbers increase the following year, resulting in back-to-back seasons where he earned First Team All-Centercourt honors in New York.

Nwora continued his basketball career at the University of Louisville, where he averaged only 5.7 points and 2.2 rebounds as a freshman. During his sophomore season, Nwora earned his spot as a starter, averaging 17 points and 7.6 rebounds that season. At the end of the year, Nwora was named Most Improved Player in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). The Cardinals’ season ended early, as they were knocked out in the first round of the 2019 Division I NCAA Tournament in a 86-76 loss to Minnesota.

For the 2019 FIBA World Qualifiers, Nwora was selected to the Nigerian national team, with his dad as the head coach. The two became the first father and son to represent the Nigerian national team at the same time. At the tournament, Nwora averaged 21.7 points and scored the most points in a game in D’Tigers history, scoring 36 points against Mali. The Nigerian team won Group F and qualified for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. At the World Cup Nigeria finished third in Group B, one point behind Russia, and was eliminated from the competition.

At the beginning of his junior season, Nwora was named preseason ACC player of the year. He scored his collegiate career high in points that year when he dropped 39 points against Boston College. The year ended in disappointment for the Cardinals, who missed the NCAA Tournament, but not for Nwora. He was named to First Team All-ACC honors and finished second in ACC player of the year voting. Following the season, Nwora declared for the 2020 NBA Draft.

As the 47th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks selected Nwora. As a rookie, Nwora was assigned to the Salt Lake City Stars of the G League but was quickly recalled because of an ankle injury. After his recovery, Nwora played 30 games for the Bucks. He came off the bench averaging 5.7 points and shooting 45% from the three-point line during the regular season. In his first year in the NBA, Nwora won the NBA Championship as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns 105-98 to win the series 4-2.

“It’s crazy. Being in my first year and winning a championship, not a lot of people can say that. I get to check that off my list pretty early. But it’s great, being surrounded by great teammates, a great environment, even here. Whether it’s here or being in Milwaukee, it’s been great,” Nwora said.

Nwora commented on going from being the focal point for Nigeria and the Herd, to a bench player with the Bucks. “It’s not too difficult. I’m starting to figure it out now after the last month where I was playing a lot of minutes [with the Bucks]. I think it just comes with playing. The more I play, the more I will get used to it. Right now, my role has been a little bit inconsistent, but that’s what you get being on a good team and being the youngest guy. I’m just going to stay in the gym and continue to work on my game and keep getting better.”

Slowly, Nwora has gained more and more playing time for the Bucks. This season, he has already played more games (43) than the entirety of last season. So far, Nwora has averaged 7.8 points and 3.0 rebounds a game. Nwora took the internet by storm after he put Houston Rockets’s Armoni Brooks on skates and watched him fall as he drained a three in the 126-106 win on Dec. 22. Just on Monday, Nwora scored 17 points and dished out six assists alongside his friend and teammate Sandro Mamukelashvili in the 122-107 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Nwora said, “a big [part of getting better] is just to keep playing and work on the little stuff. I talked to Jrue the other day and [he] wants me to take those post up shots. [He wants me to keep] working on my game in the post and Khris said that’s something that could help me a lot. I never really did that a lot, but I’m starting to realize how big I am.”

“I think Jrue and Khris [have helped me the most]. Jrue is probably the biggest in terms of helping me out. Khris gives me a lot of tips since he plays my position. He gives me tips throughout the game, and I have been in the gym with him a few times and that’s helped me a lot. Jrue just is a great mentor on and off the court and I spend a lot of time with him.”

Because Nwora is a Nigerian American, he was chosen to represent Nigeria for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Once again, Nwora was able to play under his dad, who was an assistant coach for the team. Nwora led Nigeria in scoring (21 points a game), but D’Tigers lost every game in Group B and were eliminated in the preliminary round.

“It was great [playing in the Olympics]. I got a chance to play for Nigeria, play with a bunch of pros and got to play with my dad. It was a really unique experience being an Olympian with him. It’s fun as young as I am, playing in the Olympics. It was a great experience and I hope I get to do it again in a few years. It’s always a great time playing for Nigeria,” Nwora said.

With the departure of Donte DiVincenzo, Rodney Hood, and Semi Ojeleye, Nwora’s role with the team may grow. If Nwora continues to improve, there will be more minutes and more opportunities to shine with the Bucks.

“I think we can win a championship again. I think we’re definitely better than the fourth seed. I think we are going to go on a roll here soon. I think we’re just still trying to figure each other out. We haven’t really had a full healthy team yet. I think [with] guys coming back and getting healthy and really playing together we’re going to figure it out.”