It appeared there could be some questions about just where Missouri would stand on the college basketball front next year. The Tigers wrapped up a 30-win season and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, but were upset in their first game of the Big Dance. The team was an upstart group in Frank Haith’s first season and is losing many dynamic pieces.
Instead of worry, however, the Tigers look to be in pretty good shape thanks to a big-name transfer who won a national championship at Syracuse. Alex Oriakhi decided to take on another year at the college level, but do it elsewhere, saying he still has things left to accomplish. He’ll try to do just that alongside very close friend and Missouri point guard Phil Pressey, immediately creating a solid 1-2 punch.
Alex Oriakhi joined KCSP in Kansas City with Danny and Carrington to discuss why he picked Missouri, playing with buddy Phil Pressey, why he didn’t just go to the NBA, how he describes his game, coach Frank Haith’s reaction and joining up with a group with plenty of new faces.
Why did you choose Missouri?:
“At the end of the day it was just a comfort level. Having a good friend of mine, Phil Pressey, there definitely helped, but I was definitely comfortable when I got there. They were a team that had a pretty successful season in my opinion, winning 30 games, and they were able to do all that without a big man, so I definitely knew they needed a big man. … Everything just meshed and it was the perfect fit.”
What’s your relationship like with Phil?:
“Phil, I’ve known him since eighth grade. … At the time, he lived in Texas but we played AAU so he basically lived with me and my family in the summer. … Even before I transferred we always texted each other every day, talked on the phone. He’s one of my real good friends.”
Why did you decide to play another year at a different school instead of going pro?:
“I didn’t perform as well as I’m capable am to go to the NBA. It was definitely a step back for me, the season I had. … I didn’t think there was a reason for me to even go into the draft. I feel when it’s time to go to the NBA for me is when I feel I’m ready and I feel I’ve done everything I can do. I have more left to accomplish.”
Describe to people how you play:
“I know I have a lot to work on and a lot to improve on, but for the most part I feel like I’m a defensive-oriented guy. Growing up, I wasn’t always the most offensively capable big man … so I had to do other things to stay on the court. I’m definitely a defensive presence. I rebound, block shots. I am working on my offense so I can really score in the post. But for the most part, I’m a defensive guy. I feel like you can dominate a game without scoring.”
When you told Frank Haith you were transferring to Missouri, what was his reaction?:
“He was ecstatic. He was really excited, gave me a hug and said, ‘Welcome to the family.’ … He said it was like getting a Christmas present. I heard that. That’s not what he told me, but that’s what I heard. I just laughed. For a coach to say that about you, it just shows how bad he really wanted me and I’m just excited to come down there and just work my tail off and let the results follow.”
Did you know him from before?:
“No, not really, but Phil’s a real close friend, so if I had any questions, I could definitely go ask Phil. That was the best. Phil was a great resource because I knew Phil was going to keep it 100 percent with me. … He was going to be truthful with me because he wouldn’t want to put me in a situation that wouldn’t help benefit me.”
Was it important for you to come into a situation where there were plenty of new faces, including you, rather than an established lineup?:
“I definitely think it helps to go to a team that’s new because I’m going to be new, my face is going to be new to the rest of the guys and we’re all going to have to learn together and find our roles out and build team chemistry.”