EL SEGUNDO — The premise sounded absurd to Lakers guard David Nwaba, the idea that his life story through his first 24 years would provide enough interesting material for a movie.
Nwaba starred at University High of Los Angeles. But he received no scholarship offers. He transferred from Hawaii Pacific to Santa Monica College to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, and led the Mustangs to their first ever NCAA tournament. But Nwaba went undrafted. He joined the Lakers’ Development League affiliate, the D-Fenders, wondering if he would ever fulfill his dream in playing in the NBA. But less than a season answer, Nwaba’s dream came true by playing for his hometown team after growing up idolizing Kobe Bryant.
Nwaba even had a crazed Lakers fan that sat behind the basket on the side of the Lakers’ bench and frequently called for him to play. The fan also shouted his name incorrectly as “Nwamamba.” An amused Nwaba heard him and wondered, “I wasn’t sure why he was chanting.”
Still, Nwaba contended “the story doesn’t seem too special” to warrant a script distributed in Hollywood. But he obviously considers the journey traveled special. After all, Nwaba believes he is “ahead of schedule” in his hope to crack an NBA roster.
“Initially just being in the D-League, the plan was just to make a summer league roster next year,” Nwaba said. “I’m just pacing myself toward making summer league roster. I didn’t know how likely it would be to get a call up.”
The Lakers called Nwaba up for a 10-day contract shortly after negotiating a buyout for veteran guard Jose Calderon following the Feb. 23 trade deadline. With the Lakers bound for a failed postseason stint for the fourth consecutive season, they wanted to evaluate a young, emerging player. With the Lakers eventually ranking nearly last in every defensive category, the Lakers wanted a player that could improve those numbers.
The Lakers saw enough to offer Nwaba a second 10-day contract. They also saw enough to sign Nwaba for the remainder of the 2016-17 season and a team option for next season. During that time, Nwaba averaged 6.0 points on 58 percent shooting and 3.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes through 20 appearances and two starts.
“I’m just happy they gave me the opportunity and having the NBA experience,” Nwaba said. “I know what to look forward to and what I need to do in order to play with the best of them. I’m excited about the offseason and ready to put in a lot of work.”
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