The odds of any one person making it as a professional athlete are notoriously slim, but that didn’t deter Los Angeles Lakers swingman David Nwaba. After playing for three years with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Nwaba jumped to the NBA’s D-League. He went undrafted but made it onto the D-Fenders as a walk-on. At draft time, Nwaba wasn’t even considered one of the top developmental players, which makes his meteoric rise that much more incredible.
He worked his way up on the D-Fenders, proving himself at the defensive end of the floor. As luck would have it, the Lakers were one of the worst teams in the league on that end of the floor, and they particularly struggled on the wings. This created an opportunity for Nwaba, who was called up on a pair of 10-day contracts before eventually earning himself a two-year deal with the team.
In an interview with Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times, Nwaba explained how he stayed motivated and positive in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds against him making it into the NBA:
“I just had confidence in myself,” Nwaba said about his perseverance. “I just felt I had to prove a lot of people wrong who didn’t believe in me. Just believing in myself made me get to where I am now.”
Now that he has a contract, Nwaba’s work isn’t done. His deal for next season is a team option, so despite his impressive play, there is no guarantee that he will make the 2017-2018 squad. One area that he needs to focus on is his shooting. In 20 games with the Lakers, he averaged just 4.1 shots in 19.9 minutes of playing time and attempted only five threes, making one. Nwaba hit 58 percent from the field, but that stat is a bit misleading since almost all of his attempts came off cuts to the rim.
Defensive specialists are certainly needed in the NBA (and especially on the Lakers), but if Nwaba can find a way to at least be respectable from the corner three it would increase his value tremendously. Unfortunately, he has very rarely shot the three at any level, so it’s going to take a lot of work to expand his game. It won’t be easy, but if nothing else, Nwaba has proven that he isn’t someone to bet against.