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Reminiscing on David Nwaba’s time as a hometown hero with the Lakers

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Nwaba was a fan favorite before getting waived, but an ankle injury has sidelined his career in Chicago.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012, David Nwaba, a then-raw combo guard, came home to Los Angeles after a stint at Division II Hawaii Pacific to play NJCAA basketball for the Corsairs of Santa Monica College. Five years later, the pride and joy of West Los Angeles’ University High is slated to return to the City of Angels on Tuesday as a member of the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago claimed Nwaba on July 14, two days after the 6’4 guard was waived by the Lakers. Nwaba, who excelled under Head Coach Koby Karl with the Los Angeles D-Fenders (now South Bay Lakers), agreed to a multi-year deal with the Purple and Gold on March 21 after completing both of his 10-day contracts. Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka explained why Nwaba caught the team’s eye.

“He has a mentality about him that is infectious,” said Pelinka, “and he works hard every day to improve himself.”

In his 18 games played with Los Angeles in 2016-17, Nwaba proved Pelinka’s words true. Excelling in limited minutes, Nwaba averaged six points, three boards, and about one steal per game (0.7) and solidified himself as a valuable part of the Lakers’ bench unit in the season’s second half. On April 1, Nwaba posted a season-high 19 points to go along with six rebounds in a loss against the Clippers.

In a September article for The Players’ Tribune, Nwaba laid out his rightfully-ambitious plans as he headed into Chicago’s training camp.

“I don’t want to just make the team, I want to stick around,” wrote Nwaba. “And I know if I get the chance, I’ll make it count.”

Nwaba seized the opportunity and continued to excel after making the team’s final roster. In eight games played, Nwaba averaged 6.9 points and 5.5. boards per game including a 15 point, 11 rebound double-double in a win against the Hawks. Nwaba had earned three consecutive starts before spraining his right ankle during the Bulls’ Nov. 4 loss to New Orleans.

Since the injury, however, Nwaba has missed six straight games. For Fred Hoiberg, the head coach for Chicago, Nwaba’s injury is a definite blow to the team.

“David’s a guy we miss,” said Hoiberg according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “We miss his energy, his live body. He’s a guy that can get in the paint, create for himself and others.”

Whether or not Nwaba steps onto the court Tuesday night at STAPLES Center, which is located about 13 miles away from his University High alma mater, he will be greeted with nothing but love. Both a Santa Monica College Corsair and Los Angeles Laker, David Nwaba is a true Angelino underdog that the city should and will endlessly support.