It’s 4-0 Auburn with 18:13 left in the first half. South Alabama’s point guard takes the ball after a made Auburn basket. The point guard crosses half court, he’s there. The point guard sprints to the right free-throw-line-extended, he’s there too. The point guard dribbles back out past the three point line, crosses over right to left and sprints to the lane, he’s there first. Spin, shot fake, awkward fadeaway....miss. A completely wasted possession.
Isaac Okoro, a 6’5” basketball ringwraith not only defended the point guard the entire possession, but he was at each point on the floor before the guard could be there. He was a constant irritant. His anticipation and basketball IQ make him what must be the most annoying thing about playing this Auburn team.
But he isn’t just annoying. Lot’s of defenders are annoying to ball handlers. Jared Harper was a master at getting under people’s skin on defense. Okoro is more than that. Dribbling against him isn’t just annoying, it is terrifying. He is not a pest in the way a cougar in your yard isn’t a pest. A cougar in your yard is a threat. Isaac Okoro is a very real threat to take the ball from you, then dunk the unholy life out it on the other end of the court, and then do it all over again the next time you inbound it.
We knew he was good on that end of the floor. Bruce even told us he was the best defender on the team back in the summer. We didn’t know he was going to be arguably the best player on a veteran led team this year. As good as Samir Doughty has been, and he has been great, Okoro is some other thing entirely. He’s a complete basketball player at 18 years old. There are some things he needs to work on—outside shooting, patience in the high post—but I feel like it will be someone in Milwaukee or Sacramento or San Antonio who will reap the benefits of that work, not Bruce Pearl.
He has almost as many blocks per game as Wiley and Mclemore, with the steal numbers of a guard. He is rebounding at a clip we haven’t seen out of a “guard” since Mustapha Heron led the team in rebounding a few years back. Remember when Chuma all the sudden looked like an NBA player playing in college games back in MARCH OF HIS SECOND YEAR? Okoro is doing that in the first five games of his college career.
He won the game against South Alabama with four straight points to end it. He put the team on his back and won his first tough away game like he’d been doing this a while.
He doesn’t foul. As intense as he is as a defender, he is averaging just a couple of fouls per game. Locking smaller guys down 90 feet from the basket and not fouling? Guys, that is really difficult. I knew he was going to be great, and I’m still surprised at how great he is.
Isaac Okoro shouldn’t be here. In my opinion, players like him should be playing professional basketball as early as possible. Some players go pro in something other than sports, and those players aren’t Isaac Okoro. I am glad he is here, and I want to make sure we cherish every minute of the Isaac Okoro Experience, but I’m afraid this thing has a one year expiration date.