Precious Achiuwa grateful for time with Miami Heat but keen for new challenge with Toronto Raptors

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With free agency opening in the NBA on Monday, Nigeria's Precious Achiuwa returned from the Olympic Games to find that Miami had sent him to the Toronto Raptors in a sign-and-trade deal to acquire Kyle Lowry.

But Achiuwa, who impressed in his rookie season in Florida, is grateful for his time with the Heat, telling ESPN that he could not have landed in a better place for his rookie season.

Achiuwa, who averaged five points and 3.4 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game last season, said: "I think it was a great place that I got drafted by.

"Not just that I was able to play, I was able to learn a lot, to learn accountability from the first day.

"They told me from the first day that this opportunity requires accountability. I had to be accountable for what I did out there and I was able to show what I could do that while also learning how to play the NBA game.

"And I had great vets with me on the team. Guys like Andre Iguodala who also has Nigerian descent, and a lot of others that I listened to all year and I was able to pick up a lot of things and learn and add to my game."

The Raptors, who have a great African core and a Nigerian president in Masai Ujiri, find themselves with a promising young player in Achiuwa, that they can either build with, or flip for future assets.

Achiuwa, picked 20th overall in 2020, was one of an historic class of nine players of Nigerian origin who were selected in that NBA Draft.

Nigeria coach Mike Brown was impressed enough by his debut season to put him on the roster to the Olympic Games and the youngster did not disappoint, averaging 8 points and 4.7 rebounds with Team Nigeria in Tokyo.

Those numbers, and the overall team performance were not enough to help D'Tigers advance past the group stage, but the 21-year-old is now looking ahead: "I don't really put a cap to what I can accomplish.

"I always feel like as long as I accomplish the thing I have in mind at that time, I am so competitive that I must set another goal that is higher than the one at the time and that is what keeps me going.

"Just setting new goals and just channelling everything to my mind, my body, my schedule, the way I sleep, my work ethic... just channelling everything into that new goal."

That talent and drive meant that the young Achiuwa soon outgrew his teammates back home in Port Harcourt, and needed a bigger challenge and that was when he moved to the USA.

He explained: "Growing up in Nigeria, when I started playing basketball, the goal was to get better. Then it got to a point, I was better than the kids I was playing with back then. After that, the goal was to go play against better kids, which was in America.

"And then I got there and the goal was to get better than the better kids, and then it was to get a free college education, and then it was to only spend one year in college. And then to make it to the NBA."

He has accomplished all of those, with relative ease. Winning an Olympic medal however, which was a clear ambition traveling to Tokyo, proved a bridge too far, but despite the setback, Achiuwa still has his sights set high.

"There's a lot to expect from me. There's no ceiling. There's no cap to what I believe I can do. I've always said that to myself," he concluded.