BOZICH | Syracuse, gurus whiffed on Louisville's Chinanu Onuaku
Chinanu Onuaku's older brother, Arinze, scored more than 1,200 points for Syracuse but the Orange had no interest in Chinanu, a whiff that has benefited the University of Louisville.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Here are the names of three 2014 center/power forward prospects that were ranked ahead of Chinanu Onuaku by Rivals and Scout, the two primary recruiting rankings in college basketball:
Cliff Alexander. Thomas Welsh. Goodluck Okonoboh.
Good luck making that argument today, fellas.
This is the number of recruiting letters that Onuaku received from Syracuse, the same program where his older brother, Arinze, played from 2006-to-2010 while scoring more than 1,200 points:
One more item. According to the University of Louisville basketball media guide, this is the name of the one basketball player that Chinanu Onuaku said that he would most like to meet:
Carmelo Anthony, the guy who carried Syracuse to its only NCAA basketball championship in 2003.
File all that information as a fascinating backdrop to the remarkable performance that Onuaku delivered Wednesday night at the KFC Yum! Center as Louisville defeated Syracuse, 72-58.
Points? Credit Onuaku with 13, the 15th time this season he scored 10 or more.
Rebounds? Give him 15, a total that tied his career high.
Assists? That would be four, a dazzling total for any center. Two to Jaylen Johnson. One to Donovan Mitchell.
Another, behind the back in traffic, to Trey Lewis. I took a second look at that play. Even a third look. Onuaku outfought Tyler Lydon of Syracuse for the rebound, an exchange that left Lydon on the ground. Onuaku held his position on the block. With his back to the basket, he noticed Lewis flashing along the baseline and led him perfectly with a right-handed, behind-the-back bounce pass.
“That was kind of instinct,” Onuaku said. “I saw Trey and my man was in front of me. He was right on the baseline. I just threw it behind my back.”
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim did not lose that game to Louisville Wednesday night. He lost that game to Louisville during the 2013-14 season when he failed to offer a scholarship to a jumbo-sized Syracuse fan.
“I didn’t get (any) calls from them at all,” Onuaku said.
“A little bit, because my brother went there,” Onuaku said. “Ultimately I probably would have went there if they would have recruited me. Of course, I would take a visit there and see.”
“I was surprised a little bit because my brother went there,” he said. “Just out of respect I thought they would at least call me.”
One more surprising fact: Onuaku never watched his older brother play in the Carrier Dome.
“My people didn’t have enough money for me to go,” he said. “I saw them when they came to play (at Georgetown).”
Boeheim and Syracuse know who Onuaku is today. He ranks seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rebounding and third in blocked shots. He has given Rick Pitino nine double-doubles.
Onuaku said his older brother is playing professionally in the Philippines and likely was not aware that Louisville and Syracuse played Wednesday night. There was no pre-game brotherly trash talk.
If Onuaku says he would like to meet Carmelo Anthony, there is another player whose style he has tried to follow – Dwight Howard of the Houston Rockets. Both players have large, powerful frames. At 6 feet 11 and 265 pounds, Howard is one inch taller but 20 pounds heavier than Onuaku.
Onuaku said he is impressed by Howard’s ability to play with his back to the basket on the low block.
Pitino did not compare Onuaku to any other players. He only compared Onuaku to the player that he can become.
“He's still only scratching his potential,” Pitino said. “He's going to get so much better.
“Stamina is the key to this game, and he kept getting tired (against Syracuse) because he's working real hard. But once he gets to the point where he doesn't get physically tired -- look out -- because he can influence every play with his passing, his defensive shot blocking, and, of course, his rebounding.”
DraftExpress.com ranks him the 40th best prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft. Onuaku said that he will not make a decision on next season until he competes at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago from May 11-16.
“I see (the projections) sometimes,” he said. “People tell me, too.
“I’m thinking about it. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I’m going to go to the combine and see what they’re talking about there and make my decision.”
I expect Onuaku to make a better decision than Syracuse made by not recruiting him.
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