Orange In The D-League: Is An NBA Return In Arinze Onuaku’s Sights?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In a new series, you can look forward to updates on your favorite former Orange basketball players in the D-League as they try to fulfill their quest to play in the NBA.

It was widely expected that Arinze Onuaku would go undrafted in 2010 after his senior season at Syracuse under Jim Boeheim. Don’t get me wrong. He was a key starter for the Cuse, but he just didn’t give off the NBA vibe. He was too small for an NBA center (6-9) and his limited offensive game held him behind versatile NBA forwards. There was also the looming leg injury that kept him out of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

As sports fans, whether college, professional or both, we generally tend to forget about players who don’t make it to the pros. Such was the case for Onuaku. After his senior season, Wesley Johnson was the Cuse star of the NBA draft and the Rick Jackson era began at the Dome.

Onuaku went into the NBA D-League, which is plagued with the stigma of being basketball’s island of misfit toys. He did some summer league with the Suns and was on the Pelicans’ roster for all of seven games, but never really made the jump to the next level.

Since it’s probably unlikely that you’re scouring the D-League daily for stats, let me give you a little update: Arinze is killing it.

Last February, the 26-year-old was selected to the Futures All-Star roster at the D-League All-Star game. Onuaku is a rebounding machine. Last season on the Canton Charge (Cleveland Cavaliers affiliate), he grabbed 9.5 per game.

This season with the Charge, the 6-9 forward is boasting 8.4 per game, but also 14.6 points per game – on track to be his career best. The Charge are 6-1 with Arinze averaging 21 minutes per game.

Obviously, the goal for any D-League player is to be signed to an NBA team. Onuaku’s posting strong numbers early and his progression throughout the season could be a big enough boost to promote him to the pros. You may have just found a reason to follow the D-League.

Ian Teti has been a contributing basketball columnist for CBSNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter @icteti

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