MINNEAPOLIS - University of Minnesota sophomore Daniel Oturu made the worst kept secret in Minneapolis official on Monday: He’s going to test the NBA Draft process.
He also intends to hire an agent. While Oturu has until June 3 to decide if he’s staying in the draft or returning to school, his decision appears to be made and his days with the Gophers are over. Oturu has submitted his name to the NBA’s Underclassmen Advisory Committee, which gives feedback to prospects about their potential draft stock.
Oturu had one of the better seasons in the history of Gophers big men. He was named Second Team All-Big Ten, was named to the league’s All-Defensive Team and has been selected to at least two All-American teams. He’s the only player in the NCAA this season to average at least 20 points and 11 rebounds per game. His 266 rebounds this year broke the single-season record, set by Jordan Murphy last year.
Leaving the program is Oturu's decison, and it's one head coach Richard Pitino supports.
“I told him you’ve got to make the best decision for you, for nobody else. Not for our basketball program, not for fans, media, anybody. You’ve got to take a step back and say have I put myself in a position where I think I can play in the NBA and I’m ready to go? I think he’s making the right decision, I’m proud of him, I support him,” Pitino told Fox 9’s Jim Rich on Tuesday.
His draft stock has a wide range. He’s projected anywhere from a lottery pick to somewhere in the second round. Regardless, he’s likely to be Minnesota’s first NBA Draft selection since Kris Humphries in 2004. For the Gophers, it’ll be the second straight year a player from the program will get to the NBA. Amir Coffey went through the process last season, didn’t get drafted and signed a two-way contract with the L.A. Clippers.
“Minnesota basketball hasn’t had a player drafted since 2004. That’s too long of a drought, that’s 16 years. So to be able to hopefully help Daniel through this process to get drafted, that’s a testament to our player development. That’s a testament to our recruiting,” Pitino said. “You look at our recruiting, there’s so much talk about in-state recruiting, well the last two kids from the state of Minnesota that chose here are going to be playing in the NBA.”
So what does life without Oturu look like for the Gophers? The short answer is we don’t know. It’s very likely that next year’s starting center is not yet on the roster.
So what names should we keep an eye on outside the program? Start with Wichita State forward Morris Udeze, who recently entered the transfer portal. He’s 6-8, 240 pounds and averaged 4.2 points and 2.8 rebounds in 28 games, averaging 10.5 minutes per game.
Another name is forward Kevin Marfo out of Quinnipiac, a player Pitino recruited in the past. He averaged 10.2 points and 13.3 rebounds in 29 starts this season. One other name to watch is Loyola Marymount graduate transfer Mattias Markusson. He’s 7-3, 260 pounds and averaged 10.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season.
Any one of those three would make a solid replacement for Oturu.
As for who is coming back that could contribute in the front court, the three names to remember are Jarvis Omersa, Sam Freeman and Isaiah Ihnen. Omersa, an Orono native, played in all 31 games, made one start and averaged 1.9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. Freeman played in just eight games, averaging 1.4 points and 1.4 rebounds. Ihnen played in 21 games, averaged 3.4 points per game and made big strides near the end of the season. His confidence grew as he got more playing time, and he finished 17-of-45 (37.8 percent) at the forward spot.
But that discussion is for another day. Right now, it's about staying safe and healthy as Coronavirus continues to make an impact over sports all over the world.