BOZICH & CRAWFORD NBA Combine notebook: Onuaku sounds like a Lou - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH & CRAWFORD NBA Combine notebook: Onuaku sounds like a Louisville lean

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Louisville's Chinanu Onuaku jokes with Maryland's Melo Trimble at the NBA scouting combine. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford). Louisville's Chinanu Onuaku jokes with Maryland's Melo Trimble at the NBA scouting combine. (WDRB photo by Eric Crawford).
CHICAGO (WDRB) – Every sentence that Louisville center Chinanu Onuaku utters between now and his announcement about where he will play next season will be micro-analyzed syllable by syllable.

On Friday, after he had 10 points and three rebounds in 21 minutes during a scrimmage at the NBA Draft combine, Onuaku delivered a string of syllables that suggested there is a serious chance he will return to U of L for his junior season.

Onuaku said the draft decision is the most difficult one of his life. He was asked why the call was more challenging than picking a college as a high school senior.

“Let’s say that I go to the league and I don’t do well, my career’s not going to be that great,” he said. “But if I go back and I can get another year under my belt and probably be a lottery pick.”

He also said the thought of returning to a talented Cardinals’ team that is projected to be a Top 10 team with Onuaku in the lineup appeals to him.

“It factors in a little bit,” Onuaku said. “It’s everybody’s dream to win a national championship.”

Onuaku said that he interviewed with the Pacers, Nets and a team that he could not remember on Friday. He said that he has individual workouts with the Celtics, Raptors and Hawks before the May 25 draft decision deadline. He will make his pick after consulting with his parents as well as his older brother, Arinze, a former Syracuse star, who played in Israel and the Philippines last season.

“I think it went well (in Chicago),” Onuaku said. “I did my job. Talking to the teams and letting them get to know me a little bit and showing them what I can do live.

“I just need to get the good feedback from the teams to see if I can go in the first round. I would like to know (if he is a first-round pick).”

The highlight of Onuaku’s game Friday came during the first half. He blocked a left-handed hook by Kentucky forward Marcus Lee and then sprinted to the offensive end of the floor for a dunk.

Onuaku confessed that he trash talked Lee after the plays. What did he say?

“Words that I can’t say on camera,” he said, with a laugh.

INDIANA JUNIOR TROY WILLIAMS said he will make his decision on where he will play next season before the May 25 deadline. After that? Williams did not provide many details, other than to say he hoped to make the announcement next week.

He said he remained “50-50,” on his choice to return to IU for his senior season or jump to the league. Williams scored seven points, making his only three-point attempt, while playing more than 18 minutes on a team with Onuaku.

Williams said he was not certain if he would have a press conference or simply issue a statement – or if he would be home in Virginia, in Bloomington or Houston, where he has been training with former NBA coach John Lucas.

Williams said that he has tried to enjoy the interview process. He said the most interesting questions that he has answered have been about his personality.

“Where my head is?” he said.  “What’s my head on my shoulders like? They pick at my brain a little.

“What most people learn is that I’m not stuck up. I’m down to earth. I’m really chill. I’m a really relaxed type of guy.”

*For some guys, playing at a college basketball program like Kentucky, North Carolina or Kansas is the dream of a lifetime.

SKAL LABISSIERE WAS NOT one of those guys. Never was. Never will be. Nothing against his one season in Lexington. Labissiere enjoyed his time and relationships at UK, but he said that college basketball was not the stage that motivated him.

“(The NBA) has always been my dream,” Labissiere said. “That’s what I grew up watching. We don’t watch college basketball in Haiti.

“That’s one thing I’ve always wanted to do is just focus on basketball. I’m ready for it.”

Labissiere also understands the questions about how much time he’ll need to add the weight and strength to contribute in the league. He was measured at 6 feet 11 ¾ with sneakers) and 215.8 pounds with 7-2 ½ wingspan.

“I see myself in four or five years being a good player in the league,” he said. “I’m going to bulk up a little bit and pick up on the speed of the game and the physicality of it. I think I’ll be fine.”

Labissiere and former UK point guard Tyler Ulis did not participate in the second round of interviews Friday. Neither played in scrimmages here.

MARCUS LEE, WHO TOLD REPORTERS at the combine on Thursday that he's "87 percent" decided to remain in the NBA Draft and not return to the University of Kentucky, said after his final combine action on Friday that he hasn't yet come to a decision, but that it's one he'll make with his eyes open.

Lee said, "I don't think I've done anything to hurt myself," during his combine workouts and interviews, but it's hard to see where he helped himself a great deal either. After scoring 2 points with 2 assists and 2 rebounds (along with 2 turnovers) in Thursday's scrimmage, he had just 2 points in 18 minutes in his Friday action, Lee acknowledged that the NBA's Developmental League may be the route he needs to take.

"I definitely understand it may be an option, and that’s a normal step for a lot of people,” Lee said Friday. “Our Harrison twins started in the D-League, and now they’re doing well in the NBA. Dakari (Johnson) is thriving in the D-League, and he’ll come up soon, too. So I see it as another step, and it’s totally fine and normal.”

In fact, of the class Lee came into UK with, only Julius Randle hasn't spent time in the D-League. Of course, Lee could return to Kentucky, though how much he might play is debatable, given the deep recruiting class Kentucky coach John Calipari has coming in. Lee said that incoming talent would have "no impact" on his decision.

"We don’t go to Kentucky to be handed the chance to play,” Lee said. “You go to Kentucky to battle and fight and earn your spot. That’s the whole point of being there."

Lee also said he won't come back to look to graduate and then transfer, saying that if he exhausted his college eligibility, it would be at Kentucky. Lee said Calipari has left the door open to do whatever he wants to do, calling the Kentucky coach "my biggest supporter." He says he thinks he'll have a handful of workouts after the combine, then sit down with his family to make a call.

"We’ll continue to get more feedback, and then once we kind of settle down, we’ll have a family meeting to kind of talk it through,” Lee said.

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