Jonathan Kuminga & Co. have a high bar to reach thanks to 2020 NBA draft class

Whether it was the timing of the Olympic Games or something else, the 2021 NBA draft's African picks have flown slightly under the radar, save perhaps for Jonathan Kuminga, and they have a high bar to meet thanks to last year's draftees.

If the six African players picked this year lost out on the hype battle, they have the added pressure of trying to match up with the likes of Jordan Nwora, who won a ring with the Milwaukee Bucks, and Precious Achiuwa, who shone with the Miami Heat.

Nwora was selected on Nigeria's roster to the Olympic Games, where he averaged a more than respectable 21 points and 4.7 rebounds in three pool games, while Achiuwa, now with Toronto, also went to Tokyo with D'Tigers and impressed.

Eight of last year's record nine Africans may not have finished with rings, but they had seasons to remember. Isaac Okoro of the Cleveland Cavaliers was the only one whose team failed to make it to the postseason but was impressive regardless.

This year, Kuminga, the highly rated player from the Democratic Republic of Congo, went highest in the draft: seventh overall by the Golden State Warriors.

This makes the NBA G League Ignite forward, who moved to the U.S. in 2016, the highest-drafted player from the Democratic Republic of the Congo since Emmanuel Mudiay was also selected No. 7 overall in 2015.

At his post-draft media availability, Kuminga outlined his aspirations, saying he had been inspired by all the African players who had come before him.

He told the media: "Starting from [Dikembe] Mutombo, going to Giannis who just won a championship ... I want to be in that category.

"I want to be one of those players coming from Africa to do something big in the NBA.

"I'm looking forward to going to Golden State and help the team, and just be that one African kid that's going to come out there and do everything that I can do to help a team to win.

"At the end of the day I just want to be remembered as that guy who brought a team to a championship, who won a championship.

"I want to be Hall of Fame, so I want to have a great career where everybody is going to be talking, 'I want to model my game to Jonathan.'"

Kaminga was followed in the draft by Usman Garuba, who went at number 23 to the Houston Rockets. Born to Nigerian parents, 19-year-old Garuba is already considered one of the best young defenders in Europe and was a member of the Spain Men's National Team in the Tokyo Olympics.

Three picks of African origin followed each other in quick succession. JT Thor, of South Sudanese origin, went to the Detroit Pistons as 37th overall and was later traded to the Charlotte Hornets.

Immediately following him was Ayo Dosunmu, born in the USA to Nigerian parents, to the Chicago Bulls. Portugal's Neemias Queta, with parents from Guinea Bissau, went at 39 overall to the Sacramento Kings.

Charles Bassey, selected 53rd by the Philadelphia 76ers, not only rounded up the list, but ensured that for the second year running, players of Nigerian origin led the African influx into the NBA.

Bassey was named an All-Star at Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Global Camp 2017, and MVP of BWB Global 2018, which was held in Los Angeles. He has also visited with and practiced with the Nigeria men's national team, who wasted no time posting throwbacks of the player from his time visiting with D'Tigers.

Bassey has had a roundabout journey from a kid playing football in Nigeria before making the switch to basketball. His strength is his defensive game, but he set about refining his three-point shooting ahead of the draft in order to be effective on both ends of the floor.

Those qualities are what got him to Philadelphia, and the youngster has his sights set on emulating Nwora on the path to an NBA championship.

"I pride myself [on my defense] a lot," he said at his media call. "Defensive teams win championships for sure, so I take pride in playing defense.

"Just playing on both ends of the floor, that's one of the strengths of my game."

The African NBA class of 2020 has set a high bar to meet, certainly, but there is little doubt that the class of 2021 has the talent and drive to meet, and even exceed, those expectations.