Late at night on Friday, May 13, after returning from the Bucks’ home playoff game, Jordan Nwora stood on the balcony of his apartment in downtown Milwaukee. Below him on the street, he saw the chaotic aftermath of a mass shooting in which 17 people were shot in a two-hour period.
“It was crazy,” Nwora said Friday afternoon at City Hall in Buffalo. “Where I live, I could see that whole area where it happened.”
The very next day, the Bucks traveled to Boston for an off day before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. At the team hotel, Nwora learned that 10 people, all Black, had been shot to death by a white supremacist at a Tops supermarket on the East Side of his hometown.
“It was a tough couple of days for me in terms of the two cities I love,” Nwora said. “The Buffalo thing obviously hit home more because I’m from there.”
Nwora, who recently completed his second year in the NBA, said it’s especially important for people to reach out to the community after the murders on the East Side. That’s why his announcement on Friday afternoon seemed so timely and poignant for a grieving city.
From July 5-9, the Jordan Nwora Foundation will host an Elite Basketball Camp at the Flickinger Center in downtown Buffalo. During a ceremony in the Mayor’s office, Byron Brown announced that three local entities — the City of Buffalo, West Herr and Delaware North — will team to award 150 scholarships worth $300 apiece to city kids for the Nwora hoop camp.
“It’s a good time for a camp like this,” Brown said, “where kids will know that adults care about them, that they are safe and that there are opportunities for them in the future.
“To have two of the largest companies in Buffalo sponsor 50 children each, and to have the city sponsor 50 children, it sends a message that we can do tangible, practical things to make a difference in the lives of children in our community.”
The camp has been months in the making. Nwora started his camps soon after the Bucks drafted him in November of 2020, making him the first Buffalo player drafted by an NBA team in a decade. Last year, his foundation conducted trial camps in Nigeria and the Ivory Coast.
African basketball is close to the heart of Nwora. His father, Alex, is a native Nigerian who settled in Buffalo after playing for Daemen and has been the head coach at ECC since 1999. Alex has been teaching clinics in Africa for many years, and was an inspiration to Jordan, who played for him when he was head coach of Nigeria’s national team.
“I wouldn’t be doing these camps without his help,” Jordan said of his father. “He has a lot of connections and knows how to set it up and run it. He’s helped me put my foot in the water.
“He’s from Nigeria, so it’s important for him to run camps in Africa. I played on the Nigerian team, so I want to give back to them, too. But I wanted to bring it back home to Buffalo and let these kids know it’s possible to make it out of Buffalo playing the sport. It’s just a matter of putting their mind to it and doing the work.”
Alex Nwora said Jordan spent a lot of his own money to get the camps going in Africa last year. He said they ran six camps as a “dry run.” They’re hoping to get NBA and WNBA people involved in the Buffalo camp, which will be for boys and girls aged 7 to 18.
“We’re looking to make this a yearly event,” Alex said. “He also has ideas to build basketball courts in Africa. We’re trying to reach underprivileged kids who would never have a chance to go to a big camp like this.”
Jordan Nwora has had an eventful, if erratic, first two years in the NBA. He was part of an NBA champion as a Bucks rookie in 2021. This past season, he averaged 7.9 points and 3.6 rebounds in 62 games. He started 13 times and averaged 16.3 points in those games.
But by the end of the season, Nwora was buried on the Milwaukee bench. During the playoffs, he was used sparingly, generally at the end of blowouts. One Bucks website described his two-year career as “incredibly turbulent,” because he has been in and out of the rotation so often.
Nwora will be a restricted free agent this summer. That means teams can make him an offer, which the Bucks can either match or let him walk. There will likely be more playing time on a lesser NBA team than a deep, talented perennial contender like Milwaukee.
“That (playing time) is all I need,” said Nwora, a 6-8 forward. “I know I can get it done again. If you keep getting better, you’ll be all right. I think that something will go down. I love Milwaukee. I want to stay in Milwaukee. It’s about what my agents say and what everybody feels is best for me.
“The way I play, score the ball, the way the game is transitioning at my size, I feel I’ll be able to stick around for a long time.”
That would be a blessing for Buffalo children. Nwora is determined to make a difference with his camps. It means a lot for him to bring a hoop camp to the Flickinger Center, where he used to shoot around as a toddler in his father’s early years as the head coach.
“It’s special to run a camp with my name on it and help so many kids,” He said. “I had a pre-draft workout for the Bucks at ECC. Their whole front office came and watched me. So that gym has a lot of history for me and my family, and now it’s about using it to give back.
“Bringing back smiles to some of these kids’ faces, there’s no better feeling than that.”
Jerry Sullivan is an award-winning journalist who joined the News 4 team in 2020 after three decades as a sports columnist at The Buffalo News. See more of his work here.