COLUMBIA — This is not common for Alex Oriakhi, and he knows it.
He is a rebounder, a blocker, an intimidating defender. Not a scorer.
But Friday night, the 6-foot-9 forward led the Missouri men's basketball team in scoring in its 74-54 win over visiting Nicholls State, pairing 17 points with 10 rebounds, something that fans, and Oriakhi, better get used to as the season goes on.
“I mean, honestly, I’m not really much of an offensive player,” the senior transfer from UConn said. “Coach (Frank) Haith is doing a great job of emphasizing throwing the ball in to me.”
It’s a huge change.
He chose Missouri over other elite basketball programs because he was told by Haith that he would not only be a vital cog in the Tigers' defense but also their offense.
So far, the results have varied.
There were times Friday night when Oriakhi looked like a polished offensive threat, pinning his defender, posting up down low, pivoting his foot and laying in an easy basket off the backboard. Other times he rushed his shot, missing easy put-backs, bobbling and turning over the basketball, looking out of place.
Having the ball, on offense, is still something that Oriakhi is adjusting to.
“I get so excited when I’m down there, and I think I just rush,” Oriakhi said, smiling. “When I’m open, I get so excited, I almost just throw it up sometimes. So I think I’ve just got to take my time.”
His coach agrees.
“What he’s got to learn to do is get his balance. When he gets knocked off balance, he just shoots it, so therefore, that makes his shot a low percentage play,” Haith said. “He’s just got to gather himself and then go up through the defense.”
The Tigers have jumped to a 3-0 start this season, with Oriakhi contributing from both ends. He is fourth on the team in scoring with 12.3 points per game and also leads the team in rebounding (11.7 per game) and blocks (five total on the season).
“Coach Haith and the staff are doing a great job of giving me confidence. That’s what any basketball player needs,” he said. “And the most important thing is, he’s letting me play through my mistakes, something that I wasn’t able to do last year (at UConn).”
He’s a rebounder, a blocker, an intimidating defender and now a scorer.
He just has to convince himself.
“Usually guys think they’re better than what they are,” Haith said. “He’s one of those guys that’s the other way.”