June 29, 2018
Ejike Ugboaja - 55th pick, 2006
Done playing - now runs a foundation and is on the board of the Nigeria Basketball Federation. Here is a slightly wooden interview, filmed by cameraman Shaky Jake, in which Ugboaja seeks to inspire.
June 29, 2017
Ejike Ugboaja - 55th pick, 2006
Appears to have retired, save for possible national team appearances.
April 2, 2011
Ejike Ugboaja (55th pick, 2006)
- Ugboaja was drafted at the end of the 2006 draft, at the backside of the Longshot Athletic Foreigners phase, straight out of the Nigerian league. He had been a multiple MVP award winner in his homeland, and had also previously averaged 5.3 points and 5.5 rebounds at the 2005 under-21 World Championships, a hotbed of scouting. The Cavaliers may have further noticed Ejike (pronounced Air-zhee-kay) in the 2006 Commonwealth Games, where he averaged 16/10; good numbers, sure, but Commonwealth Games basketball is not of a very good standard. It's the Australian B team, and then a big gap to the rest of the field. You can tell that it was a low standard because a little known country called England came in third place; indeed, it was Ugboaja's Nigeria that they beat by 23 points in the bronze medal game, despite missing their captain and best player, ex-Villanova forward Drew Sullivan.
Being drafted gave Ugboaja the leverage necessary to move up from the Nigerian basketball league, but he has not exactly made his way to the top. He started the 2006-07 season onan unsuccessful tryout in Poland, finished it up in Cyprus, and then spent the 2007-08 season with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, making him one of the very select few players with outstanding draft rights to have played in the D-League (as well as, I'm pretty sure, the first and only on-American to do so). Worse still, a year after being drafted in the second round of the NBA draft, Ugboaja couldn't manage better than the 5th round of the 2007 D-League draft, the 59th overall pick. That season, he averaged 4.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.4 fouls in 14.6 minutes per game between the Thunderbirds and the Anaheim Arsenal, numbers as-near-as-is-identical to what Eric Boateng is averaging this year. Except Ejike doesn't block shots, or have as much size as Boateng.
Since leaving America, Ugboaja has spent a year and a half in Iran, and half a season in the Ukraine. He began this season in the Spanish LEB Gold (second division) with Burgos, averaging 6.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 fouls per game, then left and returned to the Ukraine, where he has averaged 7.9/5.2/3.0 for Odessa. Last month, he played probably the best game of his life, recording 19 points and 13 rebounds in a narrow win over Derrick Zimmerman's Hoverla. But this is all Ejike has managed since draft night. He's a raw athlete, with a centre's game in a small forward's body, who turns 26 in May. It's not going to happen.
Chances of making the NBA expressed as an arbitrary percentage: 0.1% (the .1 coming from the fact that he's at least still playing).
May 18, 2010
- Ejike Ugboaja
Cavaliers draft pick Ugboaja's professional career before this season has read; Nigeria, Poland, Cyprus, D-League, and Iran. There's not a whole lot of pedigree there, not helped by the fact that he averaged only 3/3 for the Cavaliers' own D-League affiliate before being released. However, this year has seen Ejike bounce back a bit. He started the year with Azovmash in Ukraine, averaging 9.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in only 15 minutes per game in the Ukranian Superleague. He left in December and returned to Iran to play for Petrochimi, where statistics are unfortunately unavailable. Nevertheless, he produced quite a lot in a better quality of league than usual. It's something to build from.
Here are all the players drafted by the Cavaliers after the 2003 draft (the LeBron James draft):
- Luke Jackson (10th, 2004)
- Anderson Varejao (30th, 2004; technically drafted by Orlando, but done so for Cleveland)
- Martynas Andriuscabbages (44th, 2005; technically drafted by Houston, but again done so for Cleveland)
- Shannon Brown (25th, 2006)
- Daniel Gibson (42nd, 2006)
- Ejike Ugboaja (55th, 2006)
- J.J. Hickson (19th, 2008)
- Martynas Andriuscabbages (52nd, 2009; technically drafted by Miami, etc)
- Christian Eyenga (30th, 2009)
- Danny Green (46th, 2009)
- Emir Preldzic (57th, 2009, Phoenix)
It's a largely-miss record with a couple of salvaging hits (Hickson and Varejao). Gibson wasn't a bad pick either, even if he's somewhat redundant right now, and Kaun will be regarded in NBA circles as a good pick-up two years from now. However, it's not much of a list, not helped by the fact that Shannon Brown only became decent three teams later, and not until after being one of the only five players in history to have the third year of his rookie scale contract turned down.
That list also excludes the four picks that were traded by previous GM Jim Paxson, which were later by other teams used on Sean May, Rudy Fernandez, Jared Dudley and Malik Hairston (and which, if we were to play the always fun "optimum hindsight draft picks" game, could have been used on Danny Granger, Tiago Splitter, Carl Landry and Anthony Morrow). All they got in exchange for that was Sasha Pavlovic, half a year of Jiri Welsch and a year of the Milt Palacio Layup Bonanza; the May pick was given to Charlotte to coerce them into taking Jahidi White in the expansion draft.
These things aren't the fault of the current Cavaliers management, of course, except for the ones that are. Nor should it reflect on Ejike Ugboaja, whose drafting should stand on its own merits. But to non-Cavs fans, it's an interesting eye-opener. And probably quite a poignant one.