Ike Iroegbu’s already made a handful of appearances with Nigeria’s national basketball team. The next one for the ex-Washington State guard should be more meaningful.
On Tuesday, Iroegbu was one of 15 players selected to the Nigerian team that will travel to Japan this summer for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It’ll be the Olympic debut for Iroegbu, who’s represented his country at various competitions since graduating from WSU in 2017.
Efe Abogidi, WSU’s sophomore center who broke out in the Pac-12 during the 2020-21 season, participated in Nigeria’s pre-Olympics training camp at the Golden State Warriors facility in San Francisco but didn’t make the 15-man Olympic team.
It’ll be the second straight Summer Olympics that a former WSU basketball will represent Nigeria’s national team after Josh Akognon, a point guard for the Cougars from 2004-06, made the team in 2016. Akognon was one of four ex-WSU players to play in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, along with Klay Thomson (United States), Aron Baynes (Australia) and Brock Motum (Australia).
An explosive point guard for Ernie Kent’s Cougars from 2013-17, Iroegbu made a strong showing for the Nigerian team at the AfroBasket tournament in 2017, averaging 14.8 points per game, five rebounds per game and five assists per game, being named one of the event’s top five players. Iroegbu led the Nigerian team to a second-place finish at the tournament after a loss to Tunisia in the championship game.
Two years later at the 2019 FIBA World Basketball Cup, Iroegbu averaged 8.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg and 2.2 assists in games against China, Ivory Coast, Korea, Argentina and Russia.
Iroegbu, a Sacramento, California, native has played professionally both in the U.S. and overseas since leaving the Cougars, including multiple stints in the NBA G-League. Iroegbu played in a preseason game for the Los Angeles Clippers on Oct. 14, 2017. He’s currently a member of Elan Chalon of France’s top division.
Although the much younger Abogidi failed to make his first Olympics, the 2020-21 All-Pac-12 Freshman Team selection still drew rave reviews from Nigeria coach Mike Brown – a top assistant for the NBA’s Warriors – during training camp.
“Efe Abogidi has been tremendous,” Brown said in a post-practice Zoom interview on June 25. “Washington State, you guys are lucky to have him. His instincts are second to none for a young guy. I loved watching him, especially defensively. His feet are tremendous. Right now, he can sit down and guard positions one through five.
“I have high expectations for him. I’m not sure if he’s going to make the 2021 Toyko Olympics team, but he has a chance to be a big part of this program for many years to come going forward and I just see him only getting better because he plays so hard and he has all the necessary tools to me a modern-day NBA five at the highest level. Washington State, you guys are lucky he’s in Cougar land and right now we’re lucky he’s in our camp.”
The Nigerian team has other players with Pac-12 ties, including recent standouts Chimezie Metu (USC) and KZ Okpala (Stanford).
At least one other ex-WSU basketball player will be suiting up in the Olympics, as Baynes made the Australian team for the third consecutive time after participating in both the London and Rio Games.