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Mackenzie Mgbako: Fueling the Future

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
Mackenzie Mgbako, a Duke commit and projected first-round pick in the 2024 NBA draft, sat down with Boardroom to discuss his approach to NIL, his new partnership with G FUEL, and more.

In many ways, Mackenzie Mgbako is a typical teenager. The 18-year-old spends his downtime gaming and hanging out with friends and family. His pregame playlist includes Lil Durk, Lil Baby, and Real Boston Richey.

He’s also a projected first-round pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. 

Mgbako’s senior season at Roselle Catholic was the type of year many only dream of. Playing alongside his brother, he finally secured a state championship, sending him off to college with a ring. Next, he’s headed to Durham, NC where he will join the Duke Blue Devils under head coach John Scheyer.

Ahead of a busy few weeks that will include the McDonald’s All-American Game and Nike camp, the hooper sat down with Boardroom to discuss his growing NIL portfolio, his new partnership with the energy drink company G FUEL, and much more.

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When you have dozens of offers from a wide range of powerhouse programs, it can be difficult to identify the right fit — both for your game and personality. Mgbako found himself in that precise position. As he considered opportunities at places like UConn and UCLA, in the end, Duke rose above all the rest.

“[I considered] all the stars that come from that program. Now I’m thinking ahead. I’m thinking about where I want to go to and how, how they can help me in the future,” he told Boardroom. “They made players better after coming to their school. I felt like it was the right choice for me. And then when I went on the campus, the campus was just amazing. It was so surreal when I went there … So I just knew from on out I wanted to go there.”

Although Scheyer was Mgbako’s lead recruiter at Duke, there was a familiar face who made time for a meeting during his recruiting visit.

“I got to see Coach K,” Mgbako said. “He had his conference room with all his accolades in there. Then, there was another room where he had all the trophies.”

Mgbako spoke with the pros as well, connecting with Grant Hill, Kyrie Irving, and Jayson Tatum throughout the process. Each gave him advice and some unfiltered feedback about what his time could be like with the program.

During his time on campus, he also met with a relatively new team member — one who will help him navigate the sometimes murky world of NIL. Rachel Baker joined the men’s basketball program last year as general manager and helps players like Mgbako identify NIL opportunities. In their very first meeting, Baker passed on some essential lessons.

“She portrayed how following is a big part of [getting deals] and how if I boost my following, it would be able to grant me more deals and whatnot,” he said.

Additionally, she offered some advice on what life could be like when he gets to campus and the local businesses that would help ease the transition.

Although Mgbako hasn’t even had his first official practice, he has jumped in feet first to the opportunities NIL presents. He’s assembled a number of sponsorships that includes a wide range of deals that keep him dialed in almost every facet of his life. From fashion (Levi’s, PSD, Ksubi, and Stone Island) to collectibles (Topps), he even connected with local philanthropic events to use his rising stardom for good (Covenant House Giveback with Roselle Seafood). While he’s assembled a deep portfolio, he’s sure to pick companies that align with his actual interests.

“[I choose] based off of my personality and what I see myself actually consuming in a regular day-to-day basis,” he said. “Like, something I actually enjoy, something I want to use regularly. So it’s not something I’m not true to, you know?”

Photo courtesy of G FUEL.

Most recently, Mgbako linked up with energy drink company G FUEL. Founded in 2012, G FUEL touts itself as the ultimate energy drink for gamers amidst a crowded market.

“They’ve been sending me some drinks for a while now and I just really, really enjoyed it,” he said. “G FUEL with the hydration formula, just like keep me ready to play at any time and for the early morning workouts.”

As he rolled onto the set for their upcoming campaign for the rollout of the company’s new collab with Grungy Gentleman, he made sure that it was a family affair. His brother Ethan, who was a freshman on his championship-winning high school team, joined him for the shoot.

“I up my game with G FUEL from the classroom to the court,” he said. “G FUEL motivates me on the court, because I know it’s giving me the hydration boost I need.”

Also, if you look closely in a nationally syndicated Google Pixel commercial, you’ll spot the 6’8″ sensation, thanks to some help from his team at CAA.

“I said I wanted to get into the acting scene,” he said. “[I asked] ‘how can we do acting and basketball?’ Google was the first thing that popped up.”

On set, he hooped alongside his future colleagues, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum.

Mgbako sees more star-powered shoots in his future. When asked about his ultimate dream partners, he paused to think about what would be possible if his career takes off the way that analysts think that it will.

“I don’t know … If I could combine with Ruffles or Virgil Abloh’s Off White,” he rattled off. “Maybe I will have my own sneaker. That would be crazy.”

Although he’s just shy of his high school graduation, Mgbako has the all the makings of a pro, both on and off the court. When asked what his favorite things to do off the court are, he laughed and quickly responded, “Drinking G FUEL.”

Way to stay on-message.

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About The Author
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos is the Senior Director of Editorial Strategy at Boardroom. Before joining the team, her work appeared in ELLE. She previously served as the head of evaluation for a nonprofit where she became obsessed with systems and strategy and served as the curator of vibes and extinguisher of fires for the design thinking firm Stoked. She is constantly plotting a perfect tunnel ‘fit and a playlist for all occasions.