USC freshman forward Onyeka Okongwu declared for the NBA Draft Wednesday morning, thanking the USC coaching staff, his teammates and his family in an announcement posted on Twitter.
Okongwu is projected to be a top 10 pick by every evaluator and is ESPN’s No. 6-ranked prospect.
Okongwu was USC’s most talented player in 2019-20, averaging 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game in his only campaign as a Trojan. His college career was cut short before he could leave his mark on the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“What a ride it’s been my first year at USC,” Okongwu said. “My freshman campaign at the school has been nothing short of spectacular.”
Okongwu was crucial in leading the Trojans to a 22-9 record, a bye in the Pac-12 Tournament and a likely bid for March Madness had they happened. He was named to the All-Pac-12 first team and the conference’s All-Freshman team.
Okongwu concluded the statement by saying “This is for you Nnam … 21 Forever” in honor of his late brother Nnamdi, who was a talented player and USC target himself before he died at age 17 in a skateboarding accident in 2014.
Although he didn’t spend a lot of time with the program, Okongwu left an indelible impression on USC basketball. His energetic style of play resulted in a lot of highlight dunks and blocks, and he found ways to impact the game in the biggest moments without scoring. USC needed every one of his astounding seven blocks in its 80-78 win over TCU in early December.
Perhaps the defining moment of the season was when Okongwu banked in a shot from three-quarters court just before the halftime buzzer in a late-season win against Arizona, which kickstarted a three-game win streak to cap the season that solidified the Trojans’ place as one of the Pac-12’s top teams.
Okongwu emphasized how much he enjoyed the season, signing off the pseudo letter with “Forever grateful,” but also said that good things must come to an end. He also referenced what has been the defining force in his journey.
“To my family for the nonstop support: this one goes out to you! All love,” he said. “ … To everyone who’s on my side, I continue to thank you too.”
Despite the suspension of the NBA season, the draft is still set to take place June 25 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.