A United States of American based basketball rookie, Isaac Okoro has emerged under the bright spotlight of the 2020 draft in USA’s National Basketball Association (NBA), with a lot of rave previews rolling in his favour, megasportsarena.com reports.
Although he is largely unknown in Nigeria, Okoro has cut a niche for himself in Uncle Sam’s Country, where he is already regarded among the shinning lights for the near future, with the much-delayed 2020 Draft providing a viable launchpad for him to lay claim for heroics.
Born January 26, 2001 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA to Nigerian parents and raised close to metro Atlanta, Okoro’s father, Godwin, arrived as an immigrant in the 1980s, while his mother, Gloria, also originates from Nigeria.
Okoro started playing basketball in his local church league and, when he was around eight years old, he began training under the guidance of Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) coach, Omar Cooper, the father of his future high school teammate, Sharife Cooper.
He played for A.O.T. Running Rebels of Nike EYBL circuit, but he is now on the cards of Auburn Tigers of Southeastern Conference (SEC), with which he isted at 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m) and 225 pounds (102 kg), playing from the small forward position.
Okoro played basketball for McEachern High School in Georgia for four years, helping his team win the state championship and achieve national success in his senior season, following which he was considered a five-star recruit by The Rivals and a four-star recruit by 247Sports and ESPN.
After his freshman college season at Auburn, Okoro was named to the second team All-SEC, and he now looks set to follow in the footsteps of current Nigerian-born NBBA stars like Giannis Adetokunbo (Antetokounmpo), Bam Adebayo, Andre Iguodala and Victor Oladipo who were all in the spotlight of action all through last season.
Such is the verdict of SNY writer, Ian Begley, who pointed out that Okoro is already regarded as an item of note ahead of next month’s NBA Draft, with New York Knicks cited among some of the league’s franchises that have spent a lot of time gathering information about the youngster.
In his profile about Okoro, Begley wrote that the 6-6 forward, who is also ironically rated as one of the top defenders in the draft, could fit in well in all departments for The Knicks, but the youngster’s coach at Auburn, Bruce Pearl cautioned anyone against overrating his ward.
Pearl stressed that he does not expect Okoro to be available at No.8 draft for The Knicks, but a cross-section of observers think he just does not want to sound like a coach simply pumping up his player, while concluding that it is reasonable to think that the Nigerian-born lad will get taken in the top seven.
Should that be the case, if Okoro is available at eight, Pearl declared that all the contending suitors should just ‘gobble him up,’ while Begley outlined some of the assets and characteristics New York Knicks fans should know about their likely new kid on the block heading into the draft.
Begley wrote: “Okoro, 19, averaged 12.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and two assists per game as a freshman. He was named to the SEC All-Defensive team, All-Freshman team and second team All-Conference. Per NBA.com, he ranked in the 86th percentile in points per possession and in the 80th percentile in points per possession in transition.
“As mentioned above, Okoro is known as one of the best defenders in the draft, and the numbers support that thought. Okoro allowed 0.48 points per one-on-one possessions, which is in the 90th percentile, according to NBA.com.”
Pearl also told SNY: “They’ve been very inquisitive. They’ve talked to strength coaches, trainers, assistant coaches – they’ve done their homework. And they’ve liked Isaac from the jump. He’s quick enough to keep point guards out of the paint.
“He can really move his feet. And if he has to get switched on to a center, he can chest him up. That’s rare. Sometimes, he reminded me of Andre Iguodala with the way he impacted games.”
In the same vein, veteran youth basketball coach, Omar Cooper, who has known Okoro for years and trained the lad at his Georgia-based Athletes Of Tomorrow AAU program, said he feels very privileged to represent the youngster in a partnership with YMPAA’s Adie Von Gontard.
While Pearl noticed huge attributes in the lad during his time coaching Okoro, Cooper pointed out that the lad is not interested in lifestyle perks, money and fame that come with playing in the NBA; and believes the lad’s consistent focus on improvement will help him to succeed.
Cooper, the father of top 2020 guard Sharife Cooper, as well as the owner and head of LifeStyle Sports Agency, added: “Every time we go into the gym to train, he’s using every minute to get better. He’s so focused and calculated – like a baby taking his first two or three steps.
“He’s completely locked in on what he’s doing in that moment. He doesn’t get worried about the destination – he’s focused on every step. Two things matter to him outside of God: family and basketball. He’s not interested in the spoils of life. He’s a guy that’s interested in working hard in the gym and helping others outside of the gym.”
It was further gathered that the Nigerian-born small forward has support among top brass at The Knicks and he under top-notch consideration for the draft on October 16, ahead of which a strong hint has emerged that it is the route Okoro probably might want to choose.
Pearl further disclosed that he and his staff had been interviewed by Knicks about Okoro, and the coach further told The Post newspaper: “They’ve done their homework on him. I didn’t get a read on it, but they’ve done their due diligence.”
While many b’ball purists have rated the new kid on the block on the same level with another Nigerian-born rising star, Toronto Raptors’ wing, OG Onunoby, ESPN’s college basketball maven, Seth Greenberg sees a potential Jaylen Brown-type of player in Okoro.
Greenberg told The Post: “Physically strong, really defend and a toughness about him. High energy. Relentless work ethic. The thing I like the most is just his relentlessness. Jaylen Brown had the same question coming out of college.
“He’s a good shooter now. He’s a winner. He probably could defend 1-to-4 without an issue. He’s physically strong. He’s got a good floor game. You can post him up. He’s got some similarities to Jaylen..”