Without Waffle House, Okogie is adjusting to life in the NBA

Josh Okogie, with Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau, during his introductory press conference last month.
Josh Okogie, with Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau, during his introductory press conference last month.

There isn’t a single Waffle House in the state of Minnesota.

Sorry, Josh Okogie.

Aside from a drive of 420 miles from Minneapolis to the nearest Waffle House in Missouri, Okogie will have to wait until a return to Atlanta for a trip to the restaurant. He has other things on his mind at the moment.

Okogie is just beginning his NBA career.

After playing at Shiloh High and Georgia Tech, Okogie was drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 20 selection in last month’s draft. Okogie is getting the first taste of life as a professional basketball player at the Las Vegas Summer League. The shooting guard has turned in two solid performances in his opening games of the tournament made up of team rosters consisting mostly of rookies and first-year players.

Okogie combined for 26 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, three steals and one block in 63 minutes for the Timberwolves entry in two starts. The Timberwolves conclude preliminary play today before the tournament portion of the event begins.

There have been other adjustments – on the court – for Okogie after he left Georgia Tech after two seasons.

“Speed of the game,” Okogie said after scoring 16 points in a game against the Raptors on Sunday. “The two biggest adjustments are strength and speed. For me, it’s more the speed than the strength. I think physically I’m able to hang around with these guys. But the game is really fast. It’s kind of like whoa, whoa, whoa. You have to do the same thing in college as far as decision making but you have five less seconds to do it. It’s going to take a lot of time practicing. That’s what summer league is for getting use to the speed before the season starts.”

After being selected by the Timberwolves, coached by defense-minded Tom Thibodeau, it won’t be scoring that gets Okogie on the court to start his career.

“That’s his niche,” said Timberwolves summer league coach John Lucas III of Okogie’s defense. “That’s what is going to keep him on the court.”

The 6-foot-3 Okogie, who measured a 7-foot wingspan at the scouting combine in May, understands what it will take.

“Thibs is a defensive coach,” Okogie said. “I have to take advantage of my attributes. I have a long wingspan, high motor. I’m ready to go to work defensively.

“When you get drafted that’s the first thing you hear – defense, defense, defense. I take pride in that anyway.”

Okogie has proven he can score. He scored 13 of his 16 points in the win over the Raptors in the second half when he took to driving to the basket with authority. He had four strong drives, including one dunk, in the victory.

As for that big off-court adjustment, Okogie recently posted on social media a map of Minnesota showing not a single Waffle House with the message: “Definitely took it for granted @wafflehouse.” It prompted a response from the restaurant chain.

“It’s rough,” Okogie said of the missing comfort of home. “Like everything I’ll have to adjust to that and take advantage when I’m back home.”

There will be one trip to Atlanta for a game against the Hawks as a rookie next season. The Waffle House lights will be on.

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