Former USC forward Onyeka Okongwu was selected No. 6 overall by the Atlanta Hawks in Wednesday’s NBA Draft, marking the second year in a row a Trojan was drafted in the first round.
Prior to the 2019-20 season, Okongwu was projected to be a second round pick and ESPN predicted he would go undrafted. However, his performance throughout the season propelled him into the top 10. The 6-foot-9 forward had a stellar season with the Trojans, averaging 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and three blocks per game. Okongwu was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team and Pac-12 All-Freshman Team.
Okongwu started all 28 games he played, set a USC franchise record with the most blocks in a season for a freshman (76) and was the only player in the country to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 steals and three blocks per 40 minutes.
Okongwu committed to USC prior to his senior season at Chino Hills. The five-star recruit blossomed into a versatile big man able to switch onto smaller guards and dominate the paint. He led the Trojans to a 22-9 overall record, good for third in the Pac-12.
Okongwu has compared himself to Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo for his offensive and defensive versatility.
“I just want to be a player like Bam,” Okongwu told USA Today. “Bam’s my size, same athleticism. It took him a while to really be that All-Star player that he is in year three. I could definitely do that whole development process and be the type of player like Bam is.”
Before Okongwu can begin to make that jump, he must get healthy first. It was reported earlier Wednesday he suffered a fractured left big toe. The injury is not expected to put his first season in jeopardy, and he’s expected to be ready to start in time.
Okongwu joins a young Atlanta Hawks team with star guard Trae Young and promising forward Cam Reddish. He will share the frontcourt with other young players like six-year center Clint Capela and three-year forward John Collins.
Okongwu becomes the ninth active USC player in the NBA, joining veterans like San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan, New York Knicks forward Taj Gibson and Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic. Okongwu is also the first USC player to be drafted in the top 10 since O.J. Mayo in 2008.