Observations on Onyeka Okongwu, Desmond Bane, and Nick Rakocevic

December 13th, 2019

by Alan Lu

Recently, I took the opportunity to watch USC’s 6-9 freshman forward, Onyeka Okongwu square off against the TCU Horned Frogs that also featured 6-5 senior guard, Desmond Bane in a non-conference, college basketball game that took place on December 6th. It was an entertaining, hard-fought match that went down all the way to the wire, and USC nearly blew the lead as TCU managed to tie it up with 8 seconds left. Late in this contest, USC’s senior big man Nick Rakocevic was able to run in to score on a tip-in off of a miss to give his team a narrow victory. Here are my thoughts on how Okongwu, Bane, and some of the other prospects fared, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

USC's 6-9 freshman forward, Onyeka Okongwu played very well, as he excelled as an inside scorer and interior defender in his team's 80-78 win over TCU.  (Photo: Shotgun Spratling/USCfootball.com via 24/7 Sports.)
USC’s 6-9 freshman forward, Onyeka Okongwu played very well, as he excelled as an inside scorer and interior defender in his team’s 80-78 win over TCU. (Photo: Shotgun Spratling/USCfootball.com via 24/7 Sports.)

USC’s 6-9 freshman forward, Onyeka Okongwu played very well in his team’s win over TCU. He excelled as an inside scorer, helped grab some rebounds, and he played terrific defense as he blocked a plethora of shots to help his team protect the paint.

Okongwu played very good defense in this game. He did a tremendous job of rotating to block shots off of drives, as he would often swat them ferociously to get stops, and sometimes he would direct them to his teammates to help them get defensive rebounds. He also managed to intercept a couple of balls to get passes, and he also can deflect passes to disrupt his opponents’ timing. He also can guard opponents out on the perimeter as well as in the post to get stops, as he really excelled at forcing his opponents to miss shots.

Sometimes though, he would allow opponents to get deep position in the post, as he can allow easy catches when fronting, and sometimes he may not show much resistance when defending on the block, which can lead him to allow scores. Other times, he may not always run back hard on defense, which can cause his team to commit fouls and allow scores in transition.

Also, Okongwu excelled at scoring on hustle plays. He would often roll hard to the hoop to score on powerful, two-handed dunks, and he also can draw free throws after using off-ball movement to get open to get the ball in the paint. He also would beat his man down court to get open for transition scoring opportunities. He also excelled at scoring off of offensive rebounds, as he managed to score on a jump hook after grabbing a board on one such play.

He also showed a decent ability to score in the post. Okongwu used a pump fake and a pivot move to score on a drop step move, and he also got deep position to score on a strong turnaround jumper while drawing an additional free throw another time. However, he missed on a contested jump hook, as well as on a one-legged fadeaway jumper just before the shot clock expired on a separate occurrence. Also, he attempted to take a long two-point shot, but he missed it that time despite being open to take the shot. Though Okongwu drew many free throws and normally is a good free throw shooter, he did a poor job in this game of making them, and it nearly cost his team the game, as he missed four straight free throws down the stretch.

Plus, Okongwu displayed average at best playmaking skills. For the positives, he is an unselfish player that can throw interior passes to set up scores for his teammates, and he is an unselfish player that can find the open man. He also set a solid off-ball screen on a stagger screen that enabled his teammate to score on a drive to the hoop once. On the other hand, he was quite turnover prone in this game. He tended to throw hasty passes that would get intercepted, and other times he would struggle to protect the basketball, as he had some trouble handling the ball when facing heavy ball pressure.

He also showed an adequate ability to rebound the basketball. Okongwu showed better instincts to grab boards late in the game, as he would leap up to get his fair share of boards.   However, there was one play where he committed an over the back foul when going for a defensive rebound. On another, he didn’t properly block out his man, which allowed his opponent to score on a put back later on.

In general, Onyeka Okongwu is a very athletic, energetic big man that played outstanding defense, and he also showed off solid inside scoring skills, as well as a decent ability to pass the basketball. He did a great job of helping his team protect the paint, and he is a prospect that could go in the mid to late first round range, as he could end up being a solid role player in the NBA.

TCU's 6-5 senior guard, Desmond Bane had an adequate showing in his team's loss to USC.  (Photo: Stephen Spillman-USA TODAY Sports via SB Nation's Frogs O' War.)
TCU’s 6-5 senior guard, Desmond Bane had an adequate showing in his team’s loss to USC. (Photo: Stephen Spillman-USA TODAY Sports via SB Nation’s Frogs O’ War.)

TCU’s 6-5 senior guard, Desmond Bane put forth a decent performance in his team’s loss to USC. On one hand, he showed off versatile scoring skills, and he played fairly solid defense when he was on the court. On the other, he did not take nearly enough three-point shots, as he didn’t look to showcase his ability to make long-range shots enough in this game.

Bane showed an adequate ability to make jumpers in this game to space the floor for his team. He was able to drive left off of a screen to calmly make a pull-up three, and he also ran off of a ball screen to make a quick mid-range jumper from the baseline. He struggled to consistently make mid-range jumpers though, and he also missed a couple of threes, as he didn’t look to take enough jump shots from the field.

He also can score on aggressive drives in transition, and he would tend to favor going to his left to do so. However, Bane struggled more to score on half-court drives, as he had trouble finishing plays going to his right, and he also had some trouble getting all the way to the rim. He did manage to score on a nifty reverse layup off the glass after getting the ball on a backdoor cut once. Also, he managed to draw free throws after getting an offensive rebound late in the game.

Plus, he also displayed decent playmaking skills. Bane is a patient player that can kick balls out to shooters to notch assists, and he possesses fairly good court vision. Sometimes though, he can be careless with the ball, which can lead to turnovers. Multiple defenders had pressured him, as he dribbled near a sideline, as he then stepped out of bounds, in which he made a bad decision to try to handle the ball along side it. He also threw an ill-advised jump pass that ended up getting intercepted after over-dribbling on offense.

Though Bane didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, he was able to get boards on both ends of the floor. He also played decent defense. Bane did a good job of collecting steals, as he was able to run in and jump on a loose ball that an opponent dropped once, and he also intercepted a loopy entry pass that was thrown right to him. He also would actively contest jump shots to force misses.  Sometimes, he would struggle to defend out on the perimeter, which would lead him to commit fouls. He also sagged too far off his man once, which led him to allow his opponent to score on a three-point shot.

In general, Desmond Bane played fairly well in his team’s loss to USC, but he didn’t look to take nearly enough outside shots in this game or down the stretch. He is a borderline second round prospect that may project into a 3 and D role in the NBA, and he will need to keep shooting the basketball well to increase his odds to make it into the association.

USC's senior big man, Nick Rakocevic made the game winning tip-in to help get his team the victory over TCU.   (Photo: Shotgun Spratling/USCfootball.com via 24/7 Sports.)
USC’s senior big man, Nick Rakocevic made the game winning tip-in to help get his team the victory over TCU. (Photo: Shotgun Spratling/USCfootball.com via 24/7 Sports.)

USC’s senior center, Nick Rakocevic also had a fairly good showing in his team’s win over TCU. He scored on a clutch tip-in late in this contest, and he was able to provide solid inside scoring and rebounding skills. He struggled with his position defense at times, but he played fairly well when he was on the court.

Rakocevic did a good job of scoring in the post. He has good strength, footwork, and shooting touch to garner scores in the paint, as he managed to use a pivot move to score on a drop step, a spin move to score on a turnaround jump hook, and a quick ball fake to score on a step-through move. However, he tried to use a pivot move another time, but he ended up missing a turnaround jump hook completely when going up against a smaller defender once.

He also showed a good ability to score on hustle plays. Rakocevic can score on quick cuts and rolls to the basket, and he also ran in to score on a tip-in after getting an offensive rebound late in this game. He also managed to score on a powerful dunk off of a quick backdoor cut once. Sometimes though, he would miss on put backs, as he would not always go up strong around the basket.   Plus, he also pulled up to take a long two from the baseline, but he ended up missing that time.

Also, Rakocevic possesses adequate playmaking skills. He is an unselfish player that passes well out of the post, as he managed to find a cutter to set up a score once. He also can quickly find open teammates to set up scoring chances for them. He did commit a charging foul when driving to the hoop once, as that led him to commit an offensive foul and a turnover that time.

Plus, he also showed a tremendous ability to rebound the basketball. Rakocevic did a great job of hauling in boards to help his team on the glass, and he possesses very good ball location skills.

Defensively, he will need to improve on this end of the floor. For the positives, Rakocevic would use his length to contest threes to force misses. However, he had trouble guarding quicker players out on the perimeter as well as in the post, as he would frequently get beat off the dribble, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Nick Rakocevic played fairly well in this game, as he was able to excel as a scorer and rebounder to help his team get a narrow victory over TCU. He may not possess ideal physical tools, but he is a crafty, skilled big man that can score in the post, and he is a better passer than stats may indicate. Right now, he may be a borderline second round prospect for the 2020 draft, but still, he may have the skills to end up being a backup center in the NBA.

USC’s freshman big man, Isaiah Mobley had his ups and downs in his team’s win over TCU. He showed off some inside scoring and passing skills, but he did not look to take enough jumpers, and he also struggled at times on the defensive end when he was on the court.

Mobley showed a decent ability to score in the post. He was able to score on a drop step move off the glass, and he showed a strong knack to draw fouls upon his opponents. But he also tended to miss jump hooks, as he may not always go up strong, and he also can struggle to get deep position on the block.

He also showed a good ability to score on hustle plays, as he can score on rolls to the rim, and he will also run the floor to get open for transition scoring opportunities. He also managed to draw free throws off of a put back. He didn’t take many jumpers though, as he missed an open spot-up three off the catch.

He showed off fairly good passing skills, and he also set a good off-ball screen that helped enable his teammate to score on a drive to the hoop. Mobley was able to haul in his fair share of boards, but he also committed an over the back foul when going for an offensive rebound once.

Also, he will need to improve defensively. On one good play, he contested a pull-up mid-range jumper to force a miss. However, he can tend to struggle to guard his man, which can lead him to commit reach-in fouls. There was another play where he didn’t tell his teammate that a screen was coming, as his team allowed their opponent to score on a mid-range jump shot.

Overall, Isaiah Mobley had some good moments in his team’s win over TCU, but he will still need to improve his jump shot, rebounding, and on-ball defense in games. Right now, he may be a borderline second round prospect for the 2020 draft, but if he can improve his weaknesses, he could end up being a rotation player in the NBA.

Other Notes:

TCU’s 6-11 redshirt sophomore center, Kevin Samuel played very well in his team’s loss to USC. He excelled at scoring on hustle plays, would often establish deep position on the block as he showed an adequate ability to score in the post, and he was very active as a rebounder and shot blocker in this game.

He did struggle to make decisions at times on offense though, and was called for traveling a couple of times in the post. He also had trouble defending in space, as he had trouble defending screens and on off-ball motion plays. Overall, he is an intriguing prospect, and while he may be flying under the radar for the time being, he could project to be a rim protector in the NBA, as he could end up being a good find for a team in the second round range whenever he decides to enter the draft.

USC’s 6-3 senior guard, Jonah Mathews played very well in his team’s win over TCU. He excelled at knocking down threes, as he can make them off the catch, dribble, as well as off of screens, and he also showed the ability to score off the dribble when attacking the basket. He also played good defense, as he would intercept passes to get steals and contest mid-range shots to force misses, but he also would be prone to committing fouls due to over-aggressiveness. Also, he was fairly turnover prone, as he tended to commit ball-handling turnovers due to carelessness. Overall, Mathews had a solid showing, and he is a player that could end up making an NBA team’s summer league roster in 2020.

TCU’s 6-5, redshirt senior guard, Jaire Grayer had a decent showing in his team’s loss to USC. As he is the son of former NBA player Jeff Grayer, Jaire Grayer may have helped his draft standing a bit, as he did a good job of shooting and rebounding the basketball.  He made shots in a variety of ways, as he can knock down jumpers, he scored off of a floater, and he also scored on a cut to the hoop. He didn’t take many shots, but he was efficient in making them. He also was active at crashing the glass, and he also was able to get his hands on a pass to get a steal. Sometimes though, he would gamble too much, as he would be prone to allowing opponents to score in the post as well as on jumpers. Overall, he played fairly well, and he is a fairly athletic swingman that could make an NBA team’s summer league roster either in 2020 or sometime down the road.

TCU’s 6-3 senior guard, Edric Dennis also played well in his team’s loss to USC. He is an athletic, powerful player that was able to make a pull-up three, and he also excelled at scoring on strong drives to the basket. Though he has not been shooting the ball well this season, his scoring ability and athleticism could allow him to compete for an NBA summer league roster spot either in 2020 or sometime down the road.

USC’s 6-1 freshman point guard, Ethan Anderson showed a good ability to score on drives and cuts to the hoop, and he also played well in virtually every facet of the game. He did not take a three-point shot or many shots in general, but he is an athletic, pass first point guard that can attack the basket to garner scores, and he is an intriguing prospect that could end up moving up draft boards sometime in the future.