BUFFALO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork)- 2020 has been a year of uncertainty for everyone. For NBA Draft prospects like Buffalo native Jordan Nwora, the toughest part of that uncertainty has been the waiting.
“The biggest challenge for me is just having that patience to get through it,” said Nwora in an interview with CBS Local’s Ryan Mayer. “Just being home for so long you get a little jittery, ready to go and do something. You want to get back to doing things with the team. These past few months it’s been about that patience to get through it.”
The 22-year-old Nwora has been home in Buffalo since the Cardinals season ended, along with the rest of college basketball, back in March. The family time has been nice of course, but as with any college student returning home, there’s the questions of ‘Where are you going?’ when you walk out the door that you have to answer once more when you’re under your parents roof. Nwora has gotten plenty of that but he’s enjoyed the time being around his three younger sisters and parents.
With one year left of eligibility, Nwora could have returned to school for his senior year this fall. But, he felt that now was the right time to test the NBA waters because of the growth he showed in his time at Louisville.
“I feel like I improved every year. I got Most Improved Player my sophomore year. I was an All American my junior year so it’s like there’s not much more individually I can do,” said Nwora. “All I can do now is grow at the next level with pros around me, and I just felt like it was time to time to do that.”
Growth has been a key word in describing Nwora’s game over the course of the past several years. As a freshman at Louisville, he played in 28 games averaging 12 minutes and 5.7 points per game under coach David Padgett. Then, Chris Mack took over the program and, in showing trust in Nwora’s abilities, allowed the sophomore to blossom.
“Over that summer, I played with the Nigerian National Team I got to play with pros and I think I took a big step in terms of my personal game. But I think another big thing of me being so successful not only into my sophomore year, but also my junior year at Louisville was, Coach Mack putting a lot of trust in me and I trusted him a lot too,” said Nwora. “When you have a coach that trusts you and you trust him as much as he trusts you know it’s really easy to play play for somebody like that and really give it your all for somebody like that.”
Nwora certainly gave it his all, jumping to averages of 17 points, 7.6 rebounds and about two threes made per game in 29 starts as a sophomore. As a junior in 2019-20, he led the Cardinals in scoring (18 ppg), was second in rebounding (7.7 rpg) and helped guide Chris Mack’s squad to a second place finish in the ACC. Throughout his career, three-point shooting has been a centerpiece of what Nwora brings to the table.
His shooting stroke at his size makes him an interesting fit in today’s NBA. When looking at players at the NBA level that he would compare his game to, there are a few that come to mind.
“[Doug] McDermott is a guy I play like a little bit. [Kyle] Kuzma is a guy I can play like. And, I feel I’m a little similar to Tobias Harris,” said Nwora. “Those are all guys that can shoot the ball at a high level. So that’s just a few of the guys that I look at and say, ‘oh, I could do something like what they do.'”
However, Nwora notes that he’s always going to believe he’s a better shooter than whoever you compare him too. It’s that shooter’s confidence and swagger that he brings with him to any team calling his name on draft night. But, while that’s a hallmark of his game, he knows that he isn’t a finished product and is continuing to work to round out his game.
“The biggest things I’m working on right now are my ball handling, and I’m improving laterally for my defense,” said Nwora. “Other than that, continuing to shoot at a high level and just keep improving on that skill, because that’s where I really hold most of my value. I’m improving a lot of those things with ball handling and defense and those will take me by game to new levels.”
The NBA dreams are first and foremost in Nwora’s mind right now with the draft set for this week.. But, another goal looms on the horizon waiting to be checked off in the summer of 2021: playing in the Olympics with the Nigerian national team. Nwora says his plans are still to play with the team, which has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics next summer. His experience with them has been invaluable.
“It definitely took my game to another level, playing with guys like that,” said Nwora of his experience. “I was playing with guys that are in NBA which definitely opened my eyes a little bit seeing how talented guys like that are. It was definitely fun to be around them see how they handled themselves, see how hard they work every day and just being able to learn from them.”
For the moment, Nwora’s sights are set on the NBA Draft and he’s ready to hear his name called on Wednesday night.