By Tom Ballato
Chukwudiebere “Chu” Maduabum grew up in Nigeria and started playing basketball in high school when his high school coach noticed him.
Soccer was the sport everyone played in Nigeria, but at the age of 15, Maduabum started playing basketball. He was 6-foot-7 at the time.
He attended Giants of Africa, a basketball camp run by Masai Ujiri, the Toronto Raptors’ General Manager, who was born and raised in Nigeria. Maduabum’s first time attending the camp, he didn’t play well, which motivated him to work on his game.
The second time he attended Giants of Africa, he played well and displayed his raw athletic potential. Maduabum showed that he was able to run the floor well, rebound, and block shots. He also played for two teams in Nigeria before coming to the United States. Maduabum wasn’t skilled, but he played over 30 minutes a game and was running, jumping and dunking.
Maduabum tried to play college basketball in the United States. “I tried to get into community college, and when I couldn’t get into community college, I found an agent Ugo Udezue, who was Masai’s friend. Ugo helped me out and got me into the D-League with the Bakersfield Jam,” said Mabuabum.
In three games with Bakersfield, he averaged 0.7 points and 1.0 blocks in 2011. “I didn’t play, but it was a good experience for me to learn because the game is different in America then it is in Nigeria,” claimed Mabuabum about his time in the D-League. Even though it didn’t work out for him, he is grateful because this opportunity jumpstarted his playing career.
(Adam Silver at the podium) With the 56th pick in 2011 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select, Chukwudiebere Maduabum, from Lagos, Nigeria.
The Los Angeles Lakers drafted Maduabum, and Ujiri, the Denver Nuggets General Manager at the time, traded for him. According to Maduabum, getting drafted was a surreal moment, and something words can’t describe.
Due to visa issues, he missed training camp in 2011 with Denver and played one game with Bakersfield before being waived due to an ankle injury.
Maduabum played for Denver in 2012 as part of their NBA Summer League team. After declining to go to the D-League, he headed overseas to Qatar in 2013. He was playing and discovered who he was on the court and in eight games averaged 9.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks per game.
In 2013 he had a brief stint in Estonia before signing in Mongolia. Maduabum became an all-star and won a championship in Mongolia.
Maduabum had another brief return to the NBA D-League in November of 2014. After getting cut, Maduabum re-signed with Estonia. He also played briefly in Iceland and Finland in the summer and fall of 2015.
Meanwhile, in 2015, the Nuggets traded his draft rights, along with JaVale McGee and a future first-round pick via the Oklahoma City Thunder, to the Philadelphia 76ers. Philadelphia’s general manager Sam Hinkie acquired him during the 76ers era known as “The Process.”
While his draft rights were with Philadelphia, he never saw the court due to an abundance of bigs with the organization, but fans embraced him. “I love the Philly fans even if my draft rights are with Cleveland. They were just nice to me, and I was nice to them too,” said Maduabum.
In the past four seasons, Maduabum has played in Japan. He enjoys how quiet Japan has been, the scenery, and plans to make a career out of it.
Maduabum still brings physicality to his game, but his game in Japan involves running, dunking, and driving while playing inside.
The last two seasons he played for the Yamagata Wyverns played in the second division in the Japanese B.League. This past season he averaged 12.4 points, 9 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per contest in an injury-shortened season.
Maduabum had arthroscopic knee surgery, which he has since recovered from and plans to have a comeback season. A few weeks ago, Maduabum signed to play with another club in Japan, Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka.
At the age of 29, basketball has taken Maduabum to places that he never thought he would visit as a young boy growing up in Lagos, Nigeria. His name is out there, was drafted by a NBA team and hopes to play for the Nigeria Men’s National Team next summer.