Chinanu Onuaku started 26 games as a freshman at UofL. The 6’10” center averaged 3.0 points and 4.6 rebounds and blocked 1.2 shots a game, good for ninth in the Atlantic Coast Conference. After winning a gold medal playing for the USA U19 World Championship team his expectations are sky high heading into his sophomore season. Last year he hit just 46.7% of his free throws (14-30), which prompted Cards coach Rick Pitino to encourage Onuaku to switch up his form, opting to go with the underhand shot.
What did you learn this summer in the World University games?
I learned a lot. That I could help a team in many different ways. It was just a good time, learning from a different coach and learning what he expects me to do for a team.
Did it do anything for your confidence?
Yeah, it gave me a lot of confidence. After my freshman year I didn’t have like a really good freshman year. Doing that gives me a lot of confidence heading into this year.
What is different about what Coach Pitino expects from you this season?
Now I have more of a role on the team. People expect me to do more this year.
What in particular do you feel like you are expected to do?
Last year we had four scorers on the court. We had four people that dominated the offense and the defense. This year I’m going to have to do more scoring, more rebounding, more blocked shots. Tell the freshman what to do on offense and direct them what to do on defense too.
Is it fair to say that when you get the ball in the low post now, you’re thinking score and more capable of doing that?
Yes, I’ve been working on a lot of my offensive game this summer.
Do you feel like if someone comes into the lane, it’s your job to block the shot?
That’s what coach wants all the big men to do. He wants to be the leading blocked shot team in the country.
How did the new free throw form come about?
Coach P just called me into his office one day and he showed me a video of Rick Barry and he said he wanted me to shoot it like that. He said that if I can make 70 or 80%, that would get me paid. So that’s what I want to do, I want to get paid.
Had you ever heard of Rick Barry?
Yeah, I had heard of Rick Barry, but I didn’t know he was the one that shot those free throws.
Is it easier?
Yeah I think it’s easier, because you’re trying to just put the ball in the basket.
What was the reaction from some of your teammates this summer?
They thought I was playing around. VT