“Onuaku wants to go pro. He had a good combine. I would say he’ll stay in draft.”

The candid assessment on whether Chinanu Onuaku would return to the University of Louisville was coming from Coach Rick Pitino in an interview with Terry Meiners on WHAS Radio on Monday. The coach originally thought Onuku would go through the process, identify some weaknesses and come back and improve his game.

Chinanu Onuaku probably gone.
Chinanu Onuaku probably gone.

Not working out that way for Chinanu. Shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone who has paid much attention to his comments during the NBA combine. Typical 19-year-old kid caught up in the excitation of the camps, the accompanying media frenzy, and the possibility of some big bucks.

Despite all the time he spent on the bench last season, Onuaku was making significant progress. He came close to a season double-double average, scoring 9.9 points while retrieving 8.5 rebounds per game. He averaged only 24 minutes per game because he was so foul prone.

Louisville would be a better team with Onuaku, especially if his offensive game improved as much as it did between his freshman and sophomore seasons. That never seemed to carry over to his game on defense, unable to resist those moving picks, and he averaged only 24 minutes per game.

Not that big a loss if Onuaku doesn’t return, however. The expectation of UofL being a national contender shouldn’t change. Especially if his former backups Mangok Mathiang, Anas Mahmoud and Matz Stockman continue to improve, as each of them did last season.  None of them will be in danger of fouling out early every game, that’s for sure.

Onuaku will be drafted primarily because he’s big, gangly and aggressive, some team drafting him on potential, hoping he gets it all together. But don’t expect to see him in any NBA games anytime soon.

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.