Today we reach the final player on our player previews and there is a good chance we have saved the best for last.
Countdown to tipoff: 28 days
Josh Okogie already has an ACC all-freshman team appearance on his resume. Is an all-ACC recognition next? Okogie averaged over 30 minutes per game as a freshman and ranked third among ACC freshman in scoring with 16.1 ppg. He had the second highest usage on the Jackets, taking 27% of Tech’s shots, only behind Tadric Jackson at 32%. As the season went on, Josh continued to get better and with another year of development under his belt, Tech fans will be hoping to see an even more effective player this season. What might be most impressive about Okogie? Even as a freshman, the stage was never to big for him. Per Andy Demetra, Josh averaged nearly 20 ppg on over 50% shooting against the 13 Tech opponents with an NBA draft pick.
This summer, Okogie earned a spot on the USA U19 national team, participating in the FIBA U19 World Cup, an experience that was no doubt life changing as well as huge for the development of his game. The team was coached by John Calipari and many other well known college head coaches. Playing at such a high level of competition and being coached by the best will certainly help Josh to be even better this season. He has even garnered some buzz as a trendy first round NBA draft pick next season. To do so, he will have to continue to improve on his strengths and make even larger strides in his areas of weakness. Let’s break those down.
Attacking the Basket
When Okogie attacks the basket, it may remind a lot of fans of recent Tech star Marcus Georges-Hunt. Josh has a sneaky quickness that he uses to get by defenders as he does in the clip below. When he gets to the basket he can use his athleticism to glide through the air before making a tough finish. At 6’4” and 215 pounds, he uses his body to fight through contact and/or shield away the defender. He is great in transition and has a strong sense for making the back door cut at the right time. Once he is in the paint, it is nearly impossible to prevent him from getting a layup or drawing a foul.
Due to his knack for getting to the basket with ease, Josh often draws help side defense under the basket. In the clip below, he is able to beat his man, but has 7’4” Christ Koumadje waiting for him under the basket. This is not a problem though for Okogie, who pulls up and drills the mid range jumper, something he did often last year.
Getting to the Line and Converting
When you saw Josh miss a shot last season, there was a good chance it was because he was fouled. Per Kenpom, he was able to draw 6.3 fouls per 40 minutes played, good for 60th in the nation. He had six games in which he attempted over 10 free throws, including a season high of 18 against Tulane. He got to the line in a variety of ways, whether it was getting his opponent in the air on a jumper (see below) or attacking the basket strong through contact. When Josh did get to the line, he made the most of it, converting 75% of the freebies, best on the team. There is no reason to expect things to change this season and Okogie will be a good bet to contribute from the charity stripe night in and night out.
If there is an area where Okogie has the most room to improve, it is finding his teammates. Josh had just 1.6 assists per game last year and ranked 6th on the team in assist rate. There are a couple reasons that needs to change next year.
After an offseason to prepare, you can be sure teams will game plan to shut down Okogie. He will see a lot of double teams and help side defense. Whenever help comes, that means someone is open and Okogie will have to be able to find that open man. In the clip below, he draws help off the screen from Ben Lammers, and is able to find him on the roll for the easy dunk.
Additionally, with the departure of Josh Heath, there is a large amount of ball handling responsibility up for grabs. While the Jackets will have point guards Justin Moore and Jose Alvarado competing for minutes, head coach Josh Pastner likes to have multiple guards who can handle the ball at all times. As one of the now more experienced players on the team, it can be assumed Okogie will see an uptick in ball handling duty. The Tech staff emphasizes passing and it was seen in the numbers last year, when the Jackets ranked thirteenth in the country in assists to field goals made ratio. With the ball in his hands more this season, Okogie will have to improve on his assists numbers for the Tech offense to have success.
Yesterday, when previewing Justin Moore, I mentioned turnovers as an area of improvement for him. Well today, the trend continues with another player who needs to cut down on his giveaways. Okogie led the entire Tech team with 2.5 turnovers per game. Sloppy passes and out of control drives to the baskets resulted in far too many empty possessions and easy baskets for the other team. In Josh’s defense, when factoring in his usage, the turnover numbers look more respectable, but as the leader of the Jackets, it is certainly an area to improve upon for this team to reach its potential.
Do you think the upcoming season will be an all-ACC campaign for Okogie?