LOS ANGELES - For the past several days, David Nwaba has been living a dream, few people, in any, could have imagined. The Los Angeles-area native and Cal Poly graduate is now wearing the purple and gold of the Los Angeles Lakers.
"It's an amazing experience,” said Nwaba before the Lakers game versus New Orleans Sunday night. “I'm so happy to here and I'm just happy they gave me an opportunity to play for the Lakers."
Last week, the Lakers signed the 6-foot-4 guard to a 10-day contract. Nwaba had spent the season with the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Lakers D-League team based in El Segundo.
With the D-Fenders, Nwaba went from unknown to one of the league's top talents. In 39 games, he averaged 14.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest. His high-flying aerial offensive game put him on the highlights reel each game.
However, when the Lakers brought him up, it was due to his tenacious defense that earned him the promotion.
"It's always been an important part of my game, so I try every night to lock down whoever I am guarding or just make an impact on the game on the defensive end,” said Nwaba. “I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get a win."
To call playing for the Lakers a dream is an understatement. It's the team he rooted for as a kid growing up in Southern California. He attended University High School, which is located a mere 12 miles from Staples Center.
He later attended Santa Monica City College, before earning a Division I scholarship with Cal Poly.
All the more remarkable is the fact that he was playing for the Mustangs exactly one year ago. At this time last March, Nwaba was preparing for the Big West Tournament in Anaheim.
His senior season was a solid campaign that landed him on the all-Big West Honorable Mention squad. Following graduation in spring with degree in sociology, Nwaba was simply hoping to continue his playing career anywhere he could find.
"I remember during the summer I was searching for an oversees job, headed to showcases and I just got the opportunity to attend a tryout for the D-Fenders and I got the opportunity to play for them and now I'm in the Lakers room and it's just an amazing experience and I'm enjoying every second of it,” said Nwaba.
After signing his 10-day contract last week, Nwaba suited up for the Lakers for the first time last Tuesday. Taking on Charlotte, he saw five minutes of action.
While he did not score that night, he did earn a piece of Central Coast sports history. Nwaba is now the first and only Cal Poly athlete to ever play in an NBA game.
"It means a lot,” Nwaba said. “There's no one in the NBA that played at Cal Poly and for me to do it, be the first one to do it, it's crazy, but I got it done."
Helping him along the way was Mustangs coach Joe Callero, who recruited Nwaba out of Santa Monica City College where he was named Western State Conference South Division Player of the Year and to the All-California Community College Athletic Association state first team after averaging 20.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
"David improved over three years,” Callero said. “He didn't just get lucky, he worked hard."
On Sunday, Callero and the entire Cal Poly coaching staff traveled from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles to watch Nwaba play against the New Orleans Pelicans. It was a special moment for Callero and the entire Mustang program.
"You can just feel that pride that he has, the pride that we have,” said Callero. “It's mutual, it's a respect and an enthusiasm and it's happiness for somebody's success."
Callero believes Nwaba's professional success could have a positive impact on the Cal Poly basketball moving forward.
"We're more than just a great academic institution,” Callero said. “We're more than just a great location. Now we're a school where you can get a world class degree and build your game, improve your game. We've got a player who got a chance to play in the NBA, so now with a vision and a blueprint laid out for other guys believing this is an opportunity."
After Sunday's loss to New Orleans, Nwaba's 10-day contract was set to run out in three days.
He said he hasn't heard anything yet on whether the Lakers will sign him to a second 10-day deal, or perhaps, keep him for the remainder of the season.
"I haven't heard anything like that,” said Nwaba. “I'm just making use of the time I'm here, just playing hard and hard and hopefully it will all work out. I'm just putting in an 100 percent effort and hope for the best results and another opportunity."