Age: 18 (December 18, 2001)
Weight: 240 lbs
Onyeka’s strongest skill sets match a lot of the strengths a modern center should have. Okongwu is raw, but has a lot of promise. His ability to run the floor and be a lob threat out of pick and rolls are undeniable. His hands are very good. Onyeka has really good timing as a shot-blocker too as he averaged 2.7 BPG. His quickness and 7’3 wingspan allowed him to rotate quickly and get to where he needed to be and disrupt the shot. He’s really going to be able to defend the pick and roll well. His lateral quickness is pretty decent for a center; not special but would definitely be good enough especially when he continues to improve his fundamentals. His motor on the offensive glass is also great. His floor is already high. You can tell he’s raw in areas, but there was noticeable improvement in almost every aspect of his game. His jump shot is decent for the type of center he projects to be. He shot mid-range shots at decent regularity. He also shot 72.0% from the free throw line on a good sample size. There was also a lot of buzz of him being a 3 point shooter in practice many announcers would claim. Now he only made one 3 pointer the whole season, but if there is any potential of a 3 point shot, it should be considered a luxury rather than a necessity with everything else he’ll provide. His ball-handling is pretty decent for a center, there is some potential of him bringing up the ball and starting the break himself on occasion. He also isn’t great on the block, but improved tremendously as the season went on.
Onyeka is too small as a center at 6’9 and can’t really play any other position. This isn’t a major concern because of small-ball and seeing other players before him at his size succeed. However, the combination of size and lack of IQ will hurt him when defending the post. He should become better though with the right coaching, because one of Onyeka’s best traits is being coachable. Expect him to be a little handsy early on in his career, and this will cause him to get into foul trouble somewhat frequently early in his career. He can also become more alert and aware as this would help him greatly as a rim protector and knowing when to help. Onyeka’s motor is not always as consistent as one would like on the court. As a rebounder, he definitely needs to elevate his motor at times. The lack of size also hurts him on the glass. On offense, there are a lot of little areas he can improve. At times he can get weak with the ball or bring the ball low where he can easily get stripped when around the rim. He can set harder screens for sure as he likes to slip a lot thinking that is more likely to get him a basket. He’s not a naturally gifted passer. The lack of IQ doesn’t help either. The biggest concern though is his ability to at times look disengaged. It’s weird because everyone says great things about his work ethic, but sometimes he just looks like he’s just on the court, in his own world. This reminds me a lot of Romeo Langford (Boston Celtics) when I see this. There is no real reason for why they do what they do, it just happens.
Most of Onyeka’s weaknesses are ones that can be taught. Onyeka can be a rim running, pick and roll, rim protecting big man. A big flaw is the lack of size so that will hurt his ability to defend against bigs that are good in the post especially early in his career until he develops more fundamentals. It shouldn’t take too long, maybe until year 2 or 3 at the latest for him to really get a better feel for the game and get down a lot of the fundamentals, however, the man works hard so it could be even sooner. Onyeka can come in day 1 and start. Although he would struggle, it would probably be best for his development. Playing in a fast pace, pick and roll system heavy would be most ideal. The teams that should be interested are the Wizards, Hornets, Kings, and Celtics. Onyeka might not be the most talented center in the class, but he fits the modern run and gun game better than other centers like Isaiah Stewart and Vernon Carey which could cause a team to favor him. While There is a limited ceiling, There is a high floor with the way he approaches the game and work ethic off the court. Expect him to be drafted somewhere in the 8-15 range where many of the higher upside guards will be gone by then.
Article Written by Bradley Patten
Stats found on Sports-Reference (https://www.sports-reference.com/cbb/players/onyeka-okongwu-1.html)
Photo Credit to USC (https://usctrojans.com/sports/mens-basketball/roster/onyeka-okongwu/10630)