NBA Draft Bio: Onyeka Okongwu

Onyeka Okongwu, the Freshman Power Forward out of USC, has been creeping up mock drafts for the past few months. Like his former high school teammate LaMelo Ball, Okongwu is a consensus lottery pick - with some mock drafts projecting him into the top 5. Let's take a look below at how he made his way to the draft, his strengths and weaknesses as well as his overall outlook as a professional. 

Road to the Draft

Okongwu, from Chino Hills, California, was recruited by many high-ranking NCAA schools – Kansas, UCLA, and Arizona State – however he chose to stay close to home and attend USC. He had a stellar year, averaging 16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg & 2.7 blocks, while shooting 61.6% from the field. He was the major factor in the Trojans success, as the team went 22-9 and more than likely heading to an NCAA tournament berth. Growing up, his older brother Nnamdi taught him how to play the game, even bragging about how good his younger brother would be one day. Unfortunately, Okongwu tragically lost his brother in a freak skateboarding accident – something he carries with him to this day.


At 6'9", 220 lbs, with a 7'1" wingspan, Okongwu comes into the draft as an explosive, strong player with excellent mobility at the PF/C position. He has great leaping ability off two feet and can finish plays at the rim with a nice pair of hands. He has sharp footwork around the basket, which allows him to get jump hooks off with both hands, as well as a variety of other post moves. When doubled in the post, he has shown the ability to be a above-average passer out of the post. Defensively, however is where Okongwu will shine. Check out some of his defensive highlights here. His 2.7 blocks per game as a Trojan placed him 2nd in the Pac-12, and he is rated as one of the best defenders in the draft. He has good defensive fundamentals, as he stays down on pump fakes and can step out and guard on the perimeter. Last, but certainly not least, Okongwu plays hard – a talent that cannot be overlooked when rating prospects coming into the NBA. 


At this point in his maturity, he is strictly a 5 on offense, as he only took three 3’s in his Freshman year, with little mid-range game to speak of. His 72% free throw percentage does warrant optimism that he can extend his range out to the 3-point line at some point in his NBA career. His overall size is a concern – will he be able to defend at his position? He did foul out 3 times as a Freshman, which exemplifies his over-eagerness to block shots – something he will have to learn to control in the NBA. He will need to add muscle on to his frame so that he can compete day in and day out against NBA bigs. 

Overall Outlook

At worst, he'll be defensive stopper with the ability to guard multiple positions, run the floor on the fast break and finish at the rim. But in a league that is filled with under-sized bigs, Okongwu might just fit the mold of a small-ball PF/C. His work ethic, natural athletic ability and high basketball IQ may lead him down the path to be the Bam Adebayo - which is high praise. If he can add a consistent outside shot to compliment his athletic ability, the sky is the limit for Okongwu. 

Photo Credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire