After a wild day of mixed messages and “will-he-or-won’t-he” discussion, Louisville’s Chinanu Onuaku has finally made the decision that was expected of him all along.
Onuaku has decided to keep his name in the NBA Draft and depart Louisville after his sophomore season. Previously, Onuaku had been testing the NBA Draft waters under the new rule that allows student athletes to get feedback from NBA scouts and decide their fate 10 days after the combine. With three hours left in that 10-day window, Onuaku has made his call, and it’s to go to the NBA.
Onuaku made the announcement in a statement on Instagram.
“After talking to my family and going through the NBA process, (my family and I) have decided that it would be best for me to keep my name in the draft,” Onuaku said. “I will take the Terry Rozier route and work my way into the first round. I have talked to Coach Pitino and he is behind me 100 (percent). Thank you to my family and friends for all of the support, love, and prayers that you have given me. I would like to thank the University of Louisville for giving me the opportunity to get an education and play for the university.”
Onuaku is currently seen as a late-first to early-second round pick, so it’s not a total surprise that he’s declaring. However, for something that should have been relatively clear, it took a strange road to get there.
Early in the day, Rick Pitino told to multiple news outlets — including CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein — that Onuaku was staying in the draft. Then, via an Instagram message, Onuaku stated that he actually still had not made his decision yet, and that he would announce it soon. That forced Pitino to backtrack a touch on a radio hit in Louisville before Onuaku eventually made the decision everyone assumed was coming.
Got that? Me neither.
Anyway, Onuaku is seen as a solid rebounding and defensive big man who could eventually grow into a terrific NBA role player due to his ability to protect the rim and his relative mobility on the perimeter. He’s also grown by leaps and bounds in terms of his offensive game, scoring 9.9 points per game this season. He needs to improve his ability to make shots away from the basket and his tendency to turn the ball over, but if he can do that there is a legitimate NBA role player here.
One thing he’ll need to contend with in the near future is a procedure he had done on his heart that was spotted at the combine. According to Louisville, it was in conjunction with a condition called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, where an extra electrical pathway within the heart can lead to a rapid heart rate. It is considered a non-life-threatening problem, and Onuaku had a minor procedure done that will have him back on the floor for workouts sooner rather than later, but undoubtedly team doctors will have an eye on it to make sure everything has gone smoothly.
Assuming everything checks out there as expected, it’s not hard to imagine Onuaku playing in the NBA next season on a guaranteed contract, be it if he goes in the first round or second round.