At this point, NBA veteran Aron Baynes is becoming a veteran of Olympic play as well. The former Cougar big man has twice represented Australia on the world stage at the Summer Olympics, and we learned last week that he’s getting the call once again.
Aron Baynes is set to make the trip to Tokyo later this month as part of a star-studded Australian team. In addition to Baynes, NBA players Patty Mills, Joe Ingles and former Husky Matisse Thybulle will also be in the land of the rising sun to help Australia hunt for their first men’s basketball Olympic medal.
“Unfinished business is in the forefront of all our minds. We’re all excited to get out there and chase that gold medal,” Baynes told ESPN.
The grizzled vet Baynes is looking to lead Australia to the gold, but he won’t be the only player with ties to Pullman. Ike Iroegbu has also made the cut to represent Nigeria this summer.
While his post-WSU career hasn’t been as noteworthy as Baynes’, Iroegbu has put together a nice run in the pros. After leading Ernie Kent’s Cougar squad from 2013 to 2017, the Sacramento native has played for teams both in the US and abroad. He’s had a few stints in the NBA G-League and spent time in overseas pro leagues. Iroegbu is currently playing for Elan Chalon of France’s top division.
Now, he’s taking his talents to Tokyo as a member of the Nigerian national team. While it will be Iroegbu’s first Olympic experience, he has played for the team in other events. Back in 2017 he led Nigeria to a second-place finish in the AfroBasket Tournament while averaging nearly 15 points per game. Then, in 2019, Iroegbu averaged more than 8 points per game in the FIBA World Basketball Cup.
Iroegbu won one of 15 spots on the national team during training camp, but he wasn’t the only Washington State player on hand for the practices.
Current WSU sophomore center Efe Abogidi also practiced with the team, hoping to win a spot on the Olympic roster. Ultimately, the 19-year-old didn’t make the squad, but he did make a big impact on team leadership.
“I have high expectations for him,” Nigeria coach Mike Brown said during training camp (Via Theo Lawson). “I’m not sure if he’s going to make the 2021 Toyko Olympics team, but he has a chance to be a big part of this program for many years to come going forward and I just see him only getting better because he plays so hard and he has all the necessary tools to me a modern-day NBA five at the highest level. Washington State, you guys are lucky he’s in Cougar land and right now we’re lucky he’s in our camp.”
There will be plenty for Cougar fans to cheer for when the Olympics get started later this month. Lucky for us, the two WSU representatives will go head to head in game number one. Nigeria and Australia are both a part of Group B and they’ll face off on July 25 at 1:20 a.m. Pacific Time from Tokyo.
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