NEW YORK — Josh Okogie has one game left to play this season Thursday night when Georgia Tech faces Texas Christian for the NIT championship at Madison Square Garden. But he may soon find himself playing in another country: Egypt.
The freshman guard has received an invitation from Kentucky coach John Calipari to the USA Basketball 19-under training camp this summer. Players will be picked for the national team that will play in the World Championships in Cairo, Egypt, in July. So it’s pretty heady stuff. Okogie said he is “definitely honored. Not everybody gets that invitation.”
He likely will accept, but it’s not a sure thing. Here’s why: Okogie was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and has dual citizenship (he moved to the U.S. with his family when he was three years old). There’s a rule in international sports that once a player competes in an international competition, he can’t switch to another country, even if eligible because of his citizenship.
So Okogie essentially has to decide now whether he wants to compete as a U.S. athlete in international events or as a Nigerian team member. If he has aspirations to play in the Olympics one day, making the Nigeria team would be far easier than the U.S. team, where the team is comprised of mostly NBA All-Stars.
“That’s a decision I’ll have to make with my family,” he said. “They think it’s a good idea (to go to the U.S. camp). Most likely I’ll be able to enjoy the invitation. But either way it’s a good thing.”
Tech coach Josh Pastner said, “The second he steps foot on the (USA basketball) court he’s not eligible for the Nigerian national team, so he has a tough decision to make. But I think he’s pretty focused on doing the USA deal.”
Okogie scored 22 points in Tech’s NIT semifinal win over Cal State Bakersfield Tuesday night and he has developed at a faster pace than most, including Pastner, expected this season.
Can leaving for the NBA be that far away for Okogie? For more on the freshman, his season and his NBA prospects, see my column on him by clicking this MyAJC.com link.
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