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Cal Basketball: Nigerian-Born ND Okafor Commits to Bears for 2022

The 6-foot-9 player grew up in Ireland and plays at NBA Academy Latin America

Cal got its first men's basketball commitment for the class of 2022 when ND Okafor, a 6-foot-9 big man for the NBA Academy Latin America reportedly committed to the Bears, according to Jonathan Givorny of Draft Express by way of ESPN.

Okafor, 18, averaged 16.1 points, 14.3 rebounds and five blocks for Ireland's Under-16 team in the European Championships three years ago.

According to 247Sports, Okafor chose Cal over offers from Arizona, Baylor, Georgia, Creighton and TCU, among others. Okafor tweeted that Georgetown also offered him a scholarship last month.

Cal's scholarship offer did not come until Thursday, and Okafor committed to the Golden Bears the same day.

The Bears are likely to lose their most productive inside presence, Andre Kelly, after this season, although the 6-foot-9 Kelly would have the option of coming back for another season since last season did not count against a basketball player's eligibility.

Cal's other inside player is 7-foot Lars Thiemann, who is still developing.

Grant Anticevich is 6-foot-9, but he is more of a perimeter player.

Okafor (No. 22) blocks a shot in this video.

Here is Okafor throwing one down:

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And here is a highlight as a member of the Ireland team:

Okafor's first name is Ndonwawanne, and he was born in Nigeria but grew up in Ireland.

“The NBA Academy found out about me through the U16 European Tournaments [in 2018]," Okafor told Rivals earlier this year. "They invited me to a Basketball Without Borders camp. I declined the offer, but later on, I went ahead and transferred from Dallas to the NBA Academy.

“I decided to go to the NBA Academy because of the development they have done with other players. They take player development very seriously, which is the main reason why I came to the academy. They have helped me improve my shot. A lot of coaches are asking if I can shoot. I haven’t gotten the chance to show it yet, but when I do they will see what I can do.”

Here is scouting report on Okafor from September 2020 by ID Prospects

Okafor has great physical tools for a 17 year-old prospect. Standing at 6-foot-8 with a +5 wingspan and a fit frame. Okafor has great strength on his upper body, average width on his shoulders but a really strong, muscular chest and long and very strong arms. His general size and frame give him the opportunity to get stronger in the future if he puts in the work in the weight room. His lower body needs more work, especially his legs.

While Okafor is short for a Center, he’s not just a player who is embedded to the painted area, thanks to his ability to dribble the ball, excellent reverse spin skill-set and good body fakes. Despite not being a threat as a shooter, he has other ways to space the floor. In addition, his vertical pop, his ability to change direction in the air and on the ground, his body coordination, and his linear speed for his size make him a fluid and explosive athlete.

My concerns about him are more about his approach than about his physical tools. I mean, if Okafor fails to dominate his opponent offensive in one possession, he can force the issue in the next three or four offensive possessions. Of course, there some hits in these situations, but forcing the game is not something you want to see in general.

It wouldn’t be fair however to describe him completely with this label – a “force the issue” type of player, because he is not generally a selfish, score-first player. I do believe he needs to learn to use his strength and fluidity better. Especially if he wants to be the “one” in four + “one” sets at the NBA level, where he can act as a driver from the perimeter or a dunker-spot scorer thanks to his athleticism and dribbling ability.

The way the NBA is heading toward a position-less basketball the mental aspect will play an important part in his development process. I think this mental change will determine if Okafor can become a player in the mold of Pascal Siakam/Sekou Doumbouya/Luc Mbah a Moute. If he can’t learn to use his physical tools, plus, if he can’t shoot around 30% on 3-pointers he probably will become similar to Johnathan Williams.


Follow Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jakecurtis53

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