COLUMBIA — A swarm of microphones and television cameras quickly form a horseshoe around forward Alex Oriakhi when he comes onto Norm Stewart Court for the Missouri men's basketball team's media day every Monday.
There is a reason for his popularity.
Oriakhi is willing to talk as long as there are questions. And whether making wisecracks about Missouri coach Frank Haith's shoes or joking about how referees let smaller guys "get away with murder," talking to Oriakhi is always entertaining.
One subject Oriakhi seldom talks about, though, and even plays down at times, is his offense.
Oriakhi scored 18 points in the Tigers' games against South Carolina and Vanderbilt. He made dunks, jump hooks and a heap of free throws. Oriakhi leads the Tigers in free throws made, with 62 this season, and is averaging 10.8 points per game.
Oriakhi's unwillingness to acknowledge his offensive skills has drawn lighthearted criticism from coach Frank Haith.
"That's my best offense, is if I rebound," said Haith in his best impersonation of Oriakhi during Monday's news conference.
Haith says he does not want to hear those words from Oriakhi. He wants Oriakhi to be prouder of his offensive production, hoping it will lead to more confidence.
But Oriakhi said the reason he shies away from talking about his offense is not a confidence issue. He said it is because he tries to be humble about his abilities.
Oriakhi recalled a conversation former Missouri player Kim English had with the team during the summer and how English told them to be in a mentality of thinking they are never good enough. The conversation has stuck with Oriakhi.
Oriakhi's offensive spark stems from a variety of circumstances. Oriakhi credits hard work during practice as one reason for his increased production.
"When you get more reps up, you get more comfortable," Oriakhi said. "When I shoot a hook shot, I've shot it 1,000 times. The one or two times I shoot it in a game, I like the chances of it going in."
He has also had more playing time since forward Laurence Bowers' sprained his right knee.
Bowers is still questionable for Wednesday's game against Louisiana State in Baton Rouge, La. Haith said he wants to see how comfortable Bowers is with physical contact before putting him a game.
When Bowers returns, Oriakhi said he will make his offensive presence known by grabbing offensive rebounds.
"Any time a shot goes up, when I get two or three, four offensive rebounds, my offense flows pretty fluidly," Oriakhi said.
Oriakhi leads the team with 8.6 rebounds per game.
Despite not talking much about his role, Oriakhi still relishes being a focal point in Missouri's offense.
"Any big man would love it," Oriakhi said talking about his offensive role. "Especially never really being a scorer in my past few years at UConn, it's definitely fun."
There's still room for improvement for Oriakhi's offense, especially his performance on the road. Oriakhi only scored four points in games at Ole Miss and Florida.
"I've had a lot of bad games, unfortunately, on the road in my career," Oriakhi said. "One thing I do, I let it go and look forward to the next day."