5 questions with NBA draft prospect Onyeka Okongwu

FILE - In this Saturday, March 7, 2020, file photo, UCLA guard Chris Smith (5) drives to the basket as Southern California forward Onyeka Okongwu defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Los Angeles. After flirting with the NBA draft, Smith has returned to UCLA for the 2020-21 season. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, March 7, 2020, file photo, UCLA guard Chris Smith (5) drives to the basket as Southern California forward Onyeka Okongwu defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, in Los Angeles. After flirting with the NBA draft, Smith has returned to UCLA for the 2020-21 season. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez

Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez

USC’s Onyeka Okongwu is a stellar scorer and rebounder, and with his handle, he draws comparisons with Bam Adebayo.

The power forward and center, projected to go in the top 10 if not top five of the NBA draft, moves incredibly well for a big and will bring great defensive skills to an NBA team. Okongwu averaged 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 1.2 steals per game as a freshman at USC.

Although a team such as the Hawks seems to have a backlog of bigs on the roster, they may need a power forward to back up John Collins if they elect to part with pending free agent Skal Labissiere.

Okongwu declined to say which teams he has interviewed with or worked out with.

Height/weight/age/position: 6-foot-10/245/19/PF and C

… On what he’s been working on the past few months: “Definitely I just feel more confident about everything in my game. I feel better shooting the ball, feel better handling the ball. I’m learning different things on and off the court just to be better as a man since I’m about to be a 19-year-old player coming into the NBA, so definitely I’m learning things off the court to help me better myself going into the NBA.”

… On if he had trouble defending anyone this season: “No, honestly. I feel strong enough holding my own against bigger bruisers. Obviously, people are going to score, but overall, no one really outworked me, outbattled me. I just feel like my physical-ness helps me against big bruisers, and I move well on my feet to guard smaller players. So definitely throughout this whole season, I don’t feel like anyone absolutely dominated me this season.”

… On his expectations for next season: "I just want to be able to get better and whatever team drafts me, be able to be impactful, help them win games and just start off my career right. Accolades, they’re all good, but winning and being impactful and being a good teammate is even better.

… On watching the modern NBA and if he sees himself in any current players, and if he sees himself as more of a power forward or center: “I just want to be able to play like Bam. Bam’s my size, he’s got athleticism, it took him a while to really be that All-Star player he is in Year 3, so definitely I can definitely do that whole development process and be a solid player like Bam is. … (With ballhandling) he wasn’t really doing that like he does now, so it took him time to develop, and I can definitely do the same thing for myself. ... I’m 6-10, so I can definitely play the 5, small-ball 5, and I move well, I’m versatile enough to play the 4, so whatever the coach wants me to play, I’m going to play.”

… On how he’ll be affected by the quick transition from the draft to the season starting: “I think we’ll all be good. We have a lot of talented players in this draft class. We haven’t played a game since March, so we’re all hungry and anxious to play. So I know me and the rest of the players are excited to get on the court and play against some of the best talent in the world. I don’t think it’s going to really affect us at all, because we’re hungry to play already.”

In Other News