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After five-year hiatus, Emeka Okafor is returning to the NBA

The former Husky star has made a remarkable return to the league.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers-Media Day Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania is reporting that Emeka Okafor is close to finalizing a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. The 2005 Rookie of the Year had been playing for the Philadelphia 76ers’ G-League affiliate in Delaware this season, where he was averaging 6.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game in 19.9 minutes across 26 games.

Okafor was last seen in the association in 2013 for the Washington Wizards but needed to take time off due to back problems. He wasn’t medically cleared to play until May of 2017.

Picked 2nd overall in the 2004 NBA Draft, Okafor was a shining star at UConn, where he ended his career as the program’s most prolific shot-blocker with 441. Okafor won Big East and Final Four player of the year as the Huskies won their second national championship under Jim Calhoun in 2004. He also graduated in three years, earning a degree in Finance with honors.

Okafor got back on the court this past preseason for the 76ers and after just a few months in the developmental league, nearly five years removed from his last live basketball action, will be making a triumphant return to the game’s highest level at 35 years old. Amazing.

Blake Murphy of UpRoxx wrote a great profile of Okafor’s comeback attempt earlier this season. It’s definitely worth a read. Murphy details how Okafor decided to heal from his herniated disc without surgery, which may have extended his timeline for a return, but probably helped him rest and recover naturally.

Even if Okafor doesn’t catch on with the Pelicans, he’d be a great late-season addition for any playoff team. He will become the seventh UConn player on an NBA roster this season, joining Andre Drummond, Kemba Walker (who dropped 41 with nine assists last night), Jeremy Lamb, Rudy Gay, Shabazz Napier, and Daniel Hamilton, who has made two appearances while starring in the G-League on his two-way contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder.