Giannis Antetokounmpo will certainly be an inspiration to the NBA newcomers this coming season with his ever-consistent performance. One of the rookies to look out for is Usman Garuba.
Born on the 9th of March, 2002. His parents hailed from Edo State, Nigeria before relocating to Madrid in Spain where he was born. He had a passion for soccer but as time went on, he switched to basketball because of his height and joined the Madrid youth team at the young age of 11.
Usman turned up for his team to win the under-14 Spanish club tournament in 2015. He marked his debut by contributing 24 points and 16 rebounds in a win over Valencia. In the next year, Usman also led Real Madrid to defend the Minicopa title and was named MVP of the competition. His stats were astonishing as he averaged 22.8 rebounds per game in the tournament, earning 32 points against Joventut Badalona in the final.
In February 2018, Usman moved a step forward and participated in his first Adidas Next Generation Tournament (ANGT) experience with the Real Madrid under-18 team at the qualifying tournament in Munich. Although he was the youngest player in the tournament, his performances got him into the All-Tournament Team.
In the final tournament, Usman registered an average of 12 points and 6.5 rebounds per game and was named ANGT Rising Star. In January 2019, he averaged 16.5 points, 7 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game and was named MVP of the ANGT Munich tournament. He helped Real Madrid win the final tournament and made it to the All-Tournament Team.
On 28 October 2018, at 16 years and 7 months of age, Usman made his debut for Real Madrid in the Liga ACB, the first-tier league in Spain, against Miraflores. He also became the youngest centre in ACB history. In 2019, Usman became the youngest player to play for Real Madrid after starring in the reserve team for Real Madrid since 2017. In his season debut against Joventut Badalona, at 17 years, six months, and 19 days of age, he surpassed Dončić as Real Madrid’s youngest-ever starter. On 29 September, Garuba also recorded 13 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Murcia to become the youngest player with 10 rebounds in ACB history.
On 29 April 2021, Usman recorded a career-high 24 points, 12 rebounds and 30 Performance Index Rating, leading Real Madrid to an 82–76 win over Anadolu Efes in the 4th game of the EuroLeague Playoffs. Garuba also earned EuroLeague Rising Star honours after averaging 3.9 points and 4 rebounds per game in the competition.
In the national team, Garuba made his debut for Spain at the 2016 FIBA U16 European Championship in Poland where he was named MVP after leading his team to a gold medal and while averaging 16.3 points, 12.4 rebounds, and a tournament-leading 2.9 blocks per game. At 14-year-old and the second-youngest player in the tournament, he became the first player from a lower age group to ever win MVP at the event.
After picking up 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 blocks in the final against Lithuania, he joined Dario Šarić and Ricky Rubio as the only players in history with a triple-double in the final of the tournament.
At the 2018 FIBA U16 European Championship in Novi Sad, Serbia, he averaged 16.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game and took Spain to a silver medal, while earning a spot on the All-Star Five. Garuba also helped Spain win a gold medal at the 2019 FIBA U18 European Championship in Volos, Greece, joining his teammate and MVP Santi Aldama on the All-Star Five after averaging 15.6 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game.
In 2021, Garuba played on Spain men’s national basketball team at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo and he was drafted as the 23rd overall pick by the Houston Rockets during the 2021 NBA draft while in Tokyo. He then made his 2021 NBA Summer League debut in a 92–76 loss versus the Toronto Raptors where he went scoreless along with six rebounds and one steal. On August 16, he officially signed his rookie contract and he will feature for the Houston Rockets as a power forward or a centre player.
More of him will be seen this coming NBA season and we will be hoping to see how well he keeps up these performances with countless eyes and critics watching him after all he has accomplished at his early career stages.