Undrafted. Unnoticed. Undeterred.
On Tuesday, former Cal Poly men’s basketball player David Nwaba signed a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, a dream he never imagined would come true, according to the LA Times.
When Nwaba graduated from Cal Poly last spring with a sociology degree, he had big dreams for his basketball career.
Growing up in southern California, he always loved the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, one day hoping he could play for his favorite team.
The 6-foot-4 guard got his first chance to live these dreams over the summer when he was picked up by the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Lakers.
He was back home in Los Angeles and one step closer to playing in the NBA.
Graphic by Ayrton Ostly
After 38 games in the D-League, Nwaba has now been given the opportunity of a lifetime.
“He had to prove it game after game, night after night,” Cal Poly men’s basketball head coach Joe Callero said. “He’s earned it.”
After the Lakers waived guard Jose Calderon earlier this week, they had a roster spot to fill and the organization decided to give Nwaba a chance.
“If there’s anyone that I know, it’s him that deserves it,” former teammate and current Cal Poly senior guard Ridge Shipley said. “He’s worked so hard. He’s overcome so many obstacles mentally and physically, so I’m very happy for him.”
L.A.’s own, @dnwaba0, checks in for his first run in purple and gold #LakeShow pic.twitter.com/x9XRiLsdxu
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 1, 2017
Nwaba is the first Cal Poly player to be signed to an NBA team since 1978 when Lewis Cohen was drafted in the 10th round by the Phoenix Suns, but never played a game, making Nwaba the first Cal Poly men’s basketball player to play in the NBA.
For the D-Fenders this year, Nwaba has averaged 29.0 minutes, 13.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks per game.
While Nwaba was on the D-Fenders, Coach Coby Karl said he was the “best defender in the league,” a main reason why he was moved up.
Nicknamed “Mr. Dunk” by the D-Fenders play-by-play announcer, Nwaba will bring a new defensive intensity and potential highlight-reel to the Lakers’ offense.
David “Mr.Dunk” Nwaba – we could get used to that. pic.twitter.com/9D8H7c5ktq
— L.A. D-Fenders (@DFenders) November 21, 2016
“He’s going to bring some intensity to the floor and he will show people that players do play defense in the NBA,” Shipley said.
His first action came against the Charlotte Hornets Tuesday night in what ended in a 109-104 loss for the Lakers. In his five minutes of game time, Nwaba missed his only shot but corralled a rebound, making Cal Poly history.
Nwaba will look to impress the Lakers’ coaching staff and front office in the next 10 days.
“The right things have happened and he gets 10 days to be on the team,” Callero said. “I’m officially a Lakers fan now.”
While he was a Mustang, Nwaba had career stats of 27.4 minutes, 12.0 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
Whether he remains with the Lakers or fulfills his original plans of playing overseas, Nwaba is now the most successful men’s basketball player in Cal Poly history.