Suns’ Josh Okogie, Ish Wainright competing in FIBA’s African qualifiers

Aug 26, 2022, 5:13 PM
Nigeria's Josh Okogie (L) dribbles the ball past Germany's Johannes Voigtmann in the men's prelimin...
Nigeria's Josh Okogie (L) dribbles the ball past Germany's Johannes Voigtmann in the men's preliminary round group B basketball match between Nigeria and Germany during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama on July 28, 2021. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP) (Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)

A few members of the Phoenix Suns are keeping busy this offseason by competing for their respective countries in FIBA play.

While center Dario Saric will be playing for Croatia in FIBA EuroBasket 2023, making a tournament like that comes through various stages of qualifying before getting there.

That’s what Nigeria’s Josh Okogie and Uganda’s Ish Wainright are participating in right now for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 African Qualifiers, which kicked off again on Friday.

Beginning in November of last year and stretching until this upcoming February, the African region of qualifiers commence over 15 months. The second round of qualifying started in August, which will break down 12 teams into the final five that will qualify for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

Some of these windows of qualifying, such as the final stretch of games in February, take place in the middle of the NBA season, so the likes of Okogie and Wainright won’t be able to partake.

But they can help out their country during the offseason, which is what both are doing now as Okogie’s Nigeria and Wainright’s Uganda compete to get one of the three spots out of six teams in Group E.

Okogie had 23 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, five steals and a block in a loss on Friday against the Ivory Coast. That moved Nigeria to 2-3 in the group and fourth overall, making Sunday’s matchup against third-place Angola a massive one.

“My only goal is to come in and try to win games,” Okogie said Friday. “It’s not about me playing good or bad. You could say I played well but right now none of that matters because we lost the game and that was what I ultimately came here to help do is to help (us) win so these next two games I’m going to do what I can to make sure to get these wins.

“Even if I have to get more stats, get less stats — whatever I have to do to show up and get these next two wins that’s just what we going to have to do as a team.”

Wainright, meanwhile, scored 16 points with eight rebounds and two assists in Uganda’s loss vs. Angola. Uganda is on the outside looking in when it comes to qualification, ranking fifth in the group.

While this was Okogie’s first game in the qualifiers for Nigeria, Wainright has now played in three. He’s averaging 18.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game.

Okogie, the free-agent signing by the Suns in July, has an international playing career for Nigeria that included getting to compete in the Tokyo Olympics.

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Suns’ Josh Okogie, Ish Wainright competing in FIBA’s African qualifiers