SILive.com: Staten Island’s O.D. Anosike chases NBA dream at summer league
O.D. Anosike arrived in Las Vegas, a city built on the desire to chase a quick windfall, bearing the long view.
There are a lot of guys who fit the profile of the former St. Peter’s star that have gone on to make a pretty good living in the NBA, undrafted free agents whose college teams weren’t exactly regulars on ESPN. But it doesn’t happen instantly. It’s a grind. It takes a couple of tries to make the right impression. It takes some time to keep building your own game up to where it needs to be.
The 2009 Warren Jaques Award winner understands this.
“I’m coming out of Siena, small school, under the radar,” said Anosike. “I’m going to have my work cut out for me.”
So he approached his week with the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Summer League as the first step in a process, not an all-or-nothing shot. The 22-team, 11-day hoops festival in the desert has grown into a significant place on the NBA calendar over the last decade.
It’s where recent draft picks get their first impressions of NBA competition, and where they make them as well. It’s where young players with a year or two in the league come to work on their game a bit. It’s where veterans who have spent a few years on the fringes of the league come looking for jobs.
“It was definitely a step up from the college game,” said Anosike. “The NBA guys are a lot quicker, a lot stronger, a lot faster and a lot smarter. They get paid to do this. This is their life.”
It’s also a place where rookie free agents like Anosike come to do a little bit of everything. Like the veterans, they’re trying to prove they’re worthy of a training camp invite or a roster spot. Like the drafted rookies, they’re adjusting to the NBA level. Like the young pros, they’re trying to get a little better.
“It was an opportunity to see where I fit in,” said Anosike, “to gauge my performance and see what I need to do to get to the next level.”
What he learned is what he expected, that there is work to be done. Anosike seemed all arms and legs when he was leading St. Peter’s to an SIHSL Tournament threepeat, but over the last four years he’s transformed himself into a solid 243-pounder. The muscle, combined with his length and explosiveness, helped make him the nation’s leading rebounder each of the last two seasons at Siena.
But to make it to the NBA, Anosike needs to transform himself once again. At 6-foot-8, Anosike could be a dominant paint presence in the MAAC, and compete just fine even against higher-profile college programs. In the NBA, where even power forwards are stepping out to the three-point line with increasing frequency, he’s going to have to build a perimeter game.
“I think offensively I need to grow my skill set a little bit,” said Anosike. “I need to be able to shoot the perimeter jump shot a little better. Once I get a little stronger, a little more confident, I think I can be a role player in the NBA.”
It’s something that will take time, Anosike figures.
Since finishing his career at Siena, where he started 95 of the Saints’ 96 games over the past three years and picked up multiple all conference honors, Anosike has been on the move.
He went to France at the end of March with a USA under-22 team to participate in a FIBA tournament. Then it was down to the long-running Portsmouth Invitational in Virginia and a few weeks working out in Washington D.C. and an individual workout with the Boston Celtics prior to the NBA Draft.
After the June 27 draft, Anosike narrowed his Summer League options down to the Nuggets and the Toronto Raptors before choosing Denver. In the league’s new tournament format – it concludes with a championship game Monday – Anosike played six games with the Nuggets, starting two. He wrapped up Friday night with six points and two rebounds against Memphis.
“It was definitely a lot of fun,” said Anosike. “My teammates were a lot of fun. I definitely enjoyed being around an NBA coaching staff and NBA personnel.”
The next step is weighing offers from teams in Europe. The NBA Development League is a place for players a little bit closer to being ready for the NBA, Anosike believes, so he’ll likely play in Israel or Belgium this season.
He’s hoping to make a decision in the next week or two and expects to leave for Europe at the end of the summer. He also expects this won’t be his last taste of the NBA.
“I think I’m about a year or two away from the NBA,” said Anosike. “I have a lot of things to work on. I have a lot of interest overseas that I’m excited about.”