ATLANTA — The Atlanta Hawks selected USC’s Onyeka Okongwu with the No. 6 pick and LSU’s Skylar Mays with the No. 50 in the NBA Draft Wednesday night.
Okongwu only played one season for the Trojans but he set a school record for blocks by a freshman. The Pac-12 named him to its first team and All-Freshman team after last season.
The forward’s defense and rebounding ability can fill a big need for the Hawks. Okongwu is a 6-foot-9 forward and averaged 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game for the Trojans.
“He’s an unbelievable person,” Hawks General Manager and Head of Basketball Operations Travis Schlenk said in a release. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve said, ‘character is at the top of our list,’ and he certainly checks that box in a big way. Secondly, going to on-floor, he’s a very, very good defensive basketball player. He can protect the rim, he can rebound and he’s a very good pick-and-roll center with very good instincts. Offensively, he’s got unbelievable hands. He catches everything. He’s got the seven-foot wingspan and he can run the floor. So, we’re really excited about him.”
The pandemic forced the NBA Draft to go virtual this year, so Okongwu sat with family and friends at home in California.
One influential person in his life was missing at the celebration but there in spirit. Okongwu lost his older brother Nnamdi in a skateboarding accident in 2014.
The Hawks added another draft pick later in the evening with their selection of Mays at pick No. 50. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 16.7 points, five rebounds and 3.2 assists in his 31 starts as a senior at LSU.
Mays made the All-SEC First Team last season.
“We had Skylar ranked a lot higher (than No. 50),” Schlenk said. “A four-year guy, an extremely smart basketball player, a very good body, a combo guard, a high basketball IQ, skilled player. We were excited when he was there because, like I said, we had him ranked much higher than that.”