Getting the chance to play in the NBA Summer League means more to some than others. This is especially true for former Sioux Falls Skyforce guard Ike Nwamu, who is getting his first opportunity to showcase his ability at the sport’s highest level. He’ll be playing with the Miami HEAT this summer.
“It’s really refreshing to see all of the hard work and all of the blood, sweat and tears you’ve put into playing… into getting up every day and working toward getting better… to see that come into fruition like this is a really good feeling,” said Nwamu. “Just getting an opportunity to show teams that I belong in the NBA. Coming out of college I didn’t do any pre-draft workouts or anything so I didn’t go through that process. So this is really my first opportunity for teams to see me more, and I’m really excited about it because I’ve worked so hard to get to this point. I’m really excited to see what comes from it.”
After going undrafted out of UNLV in 2016 and remaining unsigned through the offseason, Nwamu slipped into the NBA G League Draft where the Skyforce quickly scooped him up with the 14th overall pick of the first round. At that point, he was a high-character player with extreme athleticism and nice touch from outside.
Over the last two seasons in Sioux Falls, though, Nwamu has proven to be more of a dead-eye from long range than anyone would have guessed upon his arrival. Now, after converting on a franchise-record 144 three-point attempts last season, Nwamu has vaulted himself into the top-five in franchise history with 231 makes in his two-year career.
“I’ve really embraced the three-point shot over the last couple years,” said Nwamu. “I’ve always kind of been a good shooter to some degree, but it’s not like I considered myself ‘a shooter.’ Working with the staff in Sioux Falls every day and cultivating that ability really propelled me to be able to have that kind of season last year.”
Nwamu will be looking to put that shooting on display for scouts around the league, and he’ll have a distinct advantage when the HEAT head to Las Vegas in early July. For starters, the NBA Summer League is played on the campus of his alma mater, UNLV. To Nwamu, it’ll be like a home game.
“Getting the chance to play in the NBA Summer League back at your school, that’s a thing that not everybody says they can do,” said Nwamu. “To be able to do that, especially playing with Derrick Jones, that’s pretty cool.”
Nwamu and Miami forward Derrick Jones Jr. (who is also listed on the Miami HEAT summer league roster) share a bigger connection than playing together in Sioux Falls last year. The pair also teamed up in their lone year at UNLV during the 2015-16 season. Nwamu was a senior transfer. Jones Jr. was a one-and-done freshman.
For Nwamu, playing alongside former teammates in both Jones Jr. and Derrick Walton Jr. provides an extra level of familiarity on the court, and he’ll take any advantage he can get heading into his first NBA action.
“There’s a definite level of added comfort playing with those guys after being with them in Sioux Falls,” said Nwamu. “It eases your mind a little bit because you know what you’re going into with those guys, especially with [Derrick Jones Jr.]. I played college ball with him as well so that level of familiarity is definitely helpful in this new environment.”
So, what should you expect to see from Nwamu out on the court in July? Nothing you haven’t seen already. The up-and-comer believes that by staying within himself, and letting the rest fall into place is the best approach.
“I’m just going to do what I do best, and let everything else fall where it may,” said Nwamu. “Whatever I’m asked to do, I’m going to do that to the best of my ability. I’m not going to go out there and try to do things that I’m not necessarily known for just to try and be seen by other people. I don’t think that’s the recipe for success.”
The good news? Nwamu doesn’t have to venture outside of his current skillset to dazzle the crowd. “Doing what he does best” will likely mean NBA fans will see a lot of high-flying acrobatics and quite a few made threes over the next few weeks.