He’s unlikely to be the first center taken in next month’s draft, but USC’s Onyeka Okongwu believes he can become the best big man in the 2020 class, writes Mike Schmitz of ESPN. Most mock drafts have former Memphis center James Wiseman going in the top three with Okongwu slotted a few picks later. The former Trojan has confidence in what he can offer an NBA team.
“I feel like I’m higher than all of them,” Okongwu said. “I just do all the little things well. I just play basketball. I know how to win. … I just want to be impactful and have an essential role in helping a team win.”
Okongwu was USC’s best player in his lone season at the school, averaging 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds in 28 games. He also had a true shooting percentage over 65% and ranked 10th in the NCAA in player efficiency. His defensive versatility, particularly his ability to disrupt the pick-and-roll, should translate well to the next level.
“It’s natural,” Okongwu said. “My AAU coach used to tell me, ‘You can have a bad day on offense but never a bad day on defense.’ When he told me that, it always stuck with me the rest of my life and now it shows.”
There’s more draft news to pass along:
- Washington’s Isaiah Stewart considers himself “the biggest sleeper in the draft,” according to Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype. Stewart has slid in draft projections since the start of last season and is now considered a late first-rounder. He believes the disrupted pre-draft process, including the lack of a traditional draft combine, cost him an opportunity to show teams what he can do. “People forgot who I am,” Stewart said. “I’m not sure if it’s because we had a losing season or not. But these guys that they have in the draft over me are guys I’ve been beating my whole life.”
- In a separate story, Mississippi State’s Robert Woodard tells Kalbrosky he’s been getting feedback from NBA teams that puts him in a range between the 25th and 40th pick. “A lot of teams are pretty interested in my game,” Woodard said. “It’s just a matter of being able to prove myself, whether it be through the virtual combine or otherwise. … I want to prove myself and establish who I am for the teams because a lot of teams are very interested in me, but they just don’t know my full potential yet.”
- TCU’s Desmond Bane will have met with all 30 NBA teams by the end of the month and is making an impression with his character and work ethic, notes CJ Moore of The Athletic. The 22-year-old is among the oldest players in the draft and brings a cerebral approach to the game.