Head coach Frank Haith initally wanted to run the offense through Oriakhi and it was obvious early on that the former UConn center was not comfortable playing with his back to the basket. The Tigers adjusted and the energetic and emotional Oriakhi flourished and ended the season with a string of six games that were extremely efficient and left some wondering about his future in the NBA.
Oriakhi is not going to be a lottery pick in the NBA draft and he likely will never be a starter at the next level, but he will play in the league. Here are three reasons why Alex Oriakhi will have a long and solid NBA career.
1. Oriakhi has some major size
Oriakhi is a solid 6'9'' tall, which is about average for NBA power forwards and a bit below average for an NBA center. But Oriakhi's size isn't necessarily vertical, it is horizontal. Oriakhi's body, at 255 pounds, is plenty stout enough to bang with anyone in the NBA.
A rule of thumb in the NBA is "you can never have too much size." As a second round pick, Oriakhi's size makes him an attractive option as a reserve off the bench.
2. Oriakhi can play without the ball
Oriakhi doesn't need the ball to have an impact on a game and in fact, he is at his best when setting screens and crashing the offensive glass. Oriakhi will have plenty of opportunities to do both at the NBA level, where the offense is often dominated by one or two offensive players who dribble the ball obsessively.
3. Oriakhi can shoot free throws
Oriakhi may not have been able to play with his back to the basket, but he did show that he can hit shots from 15 feet away with nobody guarding him. Oriakhi made 74.6 percent of his free throw attempts last year with the Tigers, which is a very good percentage for a big man.
Oriakhi's stroke from the free throw line is also a signal that he may be able to develop a nice 15 to 18 foot jumper, which is a vital and necessary skill for a NBA big-man.
Oriakhi had a very solid and accomplished college basketball career and should be able to develop into a very nice NBA reserve for years to come.