Stop me when this starts to sound familiar – Louisville lands an African (Nigerian descent) center who is raw offensively, a known defensive presence, unselfish with a penchant for the outlet pass, makes his presence know on the glass, and loves swatting shots. He has also displayed a midrange-jumper, and a developing post game. While he may not be fully developed yet, just recently turning 17, everything about Chinanu Onuaku (6-10/220) can’t help but remind Louisville fans about Gorgui Dieng. I am not saying that he will become as beloved or as talented of a player as Gorgui was for the Cards, but if he follows the course that Dieng did I’m sure Louisville fans will be more than happy with the newest Cardinal commitment.
When Louisville landed Mango, a lot of people were quick to compare him to Dieng, but their games are vastly different, so that comparison was a crude one based on looks, but in the case of Onuaku the comparisons are much more valid. Every highlight, evaluation and article released about Chinanu show and make reference to just how raw a player he is, but that he is rapidly developing and is already such a strong defensive anchor in the middle, assets of a center that Louisville coveted highly in this class.
While he is not the blue chip prospect, or big name that a lot of fans envisioned for this class, with the likes of Myles Turner, Cliff Alexander, or Trey Lyles, I believe that Onuaku is the perfect big for this class. He is also one that I believe is a better fit personality wise, as well as in his game. He needs to work on his low post game and polish up the rest, but those are things that Pitino will work with him on. The one trait that Pitino can’t instill, which is already present in Onuaku is hustle. While he is still a bit raw in terms of having a well rounded game, Onuaku is a hard worker and one that is willing to put in all of the time and effort to reach his maximum potential. That sounds a lot more like a Louisville first player and one that fits well with what Pitino and the program are trying to achieve, as opposed to the prepackaged prima donnas that are scattered throughout the top 25 prospects every year. So for all of those who are upset that Louisville is not in with, or securing commitments from five-star prospects, I assure you that players like Onuaku will more than likely exceed expectations, and develop into solid contributors for the cardinals, without all the drama, which is much more rewarding in my opinion. Want further proof, look at how highly coveted Fab Melo was a few years ago, but Louisville “lost out” on him and instead landed a raw defensive 4-star center. I think that ended up working out pretty well if you ask me. So in a few years, look back and I guarantee Onuaku will have a more successful career than at least a handful of the centers ranked much higher than him in this class.
With Onuaku’s commitment, Louisville now has three verbal pledges in this class, and as I have mentioned earlier this summer it will be a versatile one. Onuaku joins highly touted swingman Shaqquan Aaron and forward Jaylen Johnson forming a very solid trio for the cardinals. While there have been several de-commitments in this class, I love what Pitino has done so far with this class. Versatility was the word that I have been using to describe it best, but now I am leaning more toward the word potential because I believe the sky is the limit with this class. The only thing missing from Aaron’s game is some weight on his frame, which he will easily put on over the next few seasons at Louisville. Johnson and Onuaku only lack some strength and low post moves, but both have the motor and drive to develop those over time, while still contributing with defense and athleticism early on. This class also still has room for a few more prospects, most notably Sam Cassell Jr. a combo guard who recently visited campus, and Australian forward Jonah Bolden, both versatile players with great potential in their own right. While I have the utmost confidence that Pitino and staff will fill the remaining spots with the players who best fit the program, the additions of either Cassell Jr. or Bolden would go a long way in making this a very dangerous class. Until then enjoy highlights of Louisville’s latest verbal pledge
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