COLUMBIA — For someone whose NBA future remains up in the air, Alex Oriakhi has surprisingly few worries these days.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Oh, the former Missouri forward will be watching the NBA Draft on Thursday from his home in Lowell, Mass., eagerly waiting to see whether his name is called. He will be anxious then. But in the meantime, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone seemingly enjoying pre-draft process more.
“I mean, you literally play basketball all day, what more can you ask for,” Oriakhi said with a laugh. “You literally workout and that’s basically your day. It’s been a great experience for me, this is what I worked for my whole life. So it’s definitely been what I expected, just trying to get better at your craft. That’s all I get to focus on now since I’m done with school and graduated, so it’s definitely been fun.”
When he’s not traveling for various pre-draft workouts, Oriakhi — who is represented by the Wasserman Media Group — has spent his days in Los Angeles, training at Santa Monica Catholic High.
“You wake up, wait for one of the interns to come get you, go to the gym, work out and you’re either on the court first or you do the weights — that takes about two hours,” Oriakhi said. “Then the whole day is yours.”
Oriakhi said he’s often spent that free time on the court, playing three-on-three with the likes of Pittsburgh center Steven Adams and Detroit point guard Ray McCallum, Jr., who are signed to the same agency. But in his down time, he’s also watched movies and generally taken it easy.
“You have to rest your body as much as possible because once the traveling starts, it happens very fast and it gets to the point where you forget where you just came from, what day it is,” Oriakhi said. “Other than that, you get to relax in LA and do what you want. That’s why I told you, it’s hard to complain. What do I have to complain about?”
But even in sunny Los Angeles, Oriakhi still finds himself thinking about his one year at Missouri, where he transferred from Connecticut before his senior season.
“Looking back, it was the best decision I ever could have made,” Oriakhi said. “If we’re talking from an individual standpoint, what more could I have wanted? They gave me the ball every other play … I had plays ran for me, I shot well from the free-throw line. I think it’s all about putting yourself in a great opportunity, in a great position, and I think that’s what I did for this draft.”
Oriakhi points to his career-best marks from the free-throw line (74.6 percent) and field (63.9 percent) as proof of his development.
“I averaged 11 (points per game) on a team with six guys in double figures, so I think that goes a long way,” Oriakhi said. “I know what I bring to the table. I know I’m fearless out there and I can compete against anybody.”
Oriakhi does have one regret about his senior season, though.
“Sometimes, I get mad, man,” Oriakhi said. “You know, Coach Haith was so good to me as a coach and as a person, I wish I could have won more ballgames for him, man. He’s one of the best teachers I’ve been around and one of the best coaches I’ve been around so the only regret I really have is just not winning more ballgames and probably not speaking up earlier in the year as much as I should of.”
By the end of the season — which the Tigers finished with a 23-11 record and a first-game loss to Colorado State in the NCAA Tournament — Haith was openly touting Oriakhi as the team’s vocal leader, after spending much of the season touting junior point guard Phil Pressey for the same role.
Much of this had to do with Oriakhi’s previous tournament experience. Before a frustrating junior season that led to his transfer, he was the defensive anchor of the Huskies’ 2011 national championship team.
“(Assistant) coach (Dave) Leitao was always on me, telling me I’ve seen things that these guys haven’t seen, I know what it takes to really win,” Oriakhi said. “I probably should have spoken up more.
“But for the most part, I’m happy I chose Missouri. It was a blessing to go there and like I said, it worked out. I love every single one of my teammates, those guys are like brothers to me. It’s unfortunate we didn’t go as far as we wanted to, but I think they have a lot to look forward to, you know, with Jordan (Clarkson) being the point guard next year. So I think the basketball is in good hands … hopefully I can come back and visit and catch some games.”