COLUMBIA — Former Missouri men's basketball player Alex Oriakhi might not be on the top of a lot of people's draft boards, but that's the way he wants it.
"I like when people aren't talking about me. I can go about my business like no one knows me," he said. "People don't think you're as good as you know you are. Eventually, they'll start talking about you."
Oriakhi is one of three former Tigers hoping to be selected in Thursday night's NBA Draft. Former point guard Phil Pressey and forward Laurence Bowers are trying to join other former Missouri draftees such as Kim English, DeMarre Carroll and Keyon Dooling in the NBA.
Oriakhi hasn't flown completely under the radar. His draft prospect profile on NBA.com cites his strength and bulk, good defense and his ability to finish around the basket as positives. Weaknesses, the profile said, include the fact that he is still emerging as an offensive player and that he's undersized compared to other NBA power forwards. Oriakhi is listed as 6 feet, 9 inches tall and 255 pounds.
Oriakhi says he has been playing with a chip on his shoulder during workouts with NBA teams. He's comfortable with his game and wonders why some people think he won't hear his name called. There are 60 total picks across two rounds in the draft.
"I don't get people sometimes. I just let them talk, and I go to work," he said. "I could go undrafted, but what have I done that shows I couldn't play in the NBA?"
Oriakhi has been working out and preparing for the draft since he left Missouri, pairing up with Rob McClanaghan, a trainer who has worked with top NBA players such as Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant. He has had team workouts with the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves, among others.
Going into the workouts, Oriakhi said that he was nervous to go in front of a team but that once he got on the court in front of the coaching staff he could relax and be himself. He reached out to current NBA players such as Jeremy Lin and English on what to expect going through draft preparation.
"They said when you start from the bottom, nobody cares how many minutes you're going to play," Oriakhi said. "It just matters how much work you put in, go out and show what you can do. Even foul if you have to."
Pressey has been going through similar workouts, traveling across the country and showcasing himself for about 10 teams, including the Detroit Pistons. The Boston Celtics have called him in twice. He said he performed well at his workouts, showing his playmaking ability as well as his prowess for scoring one on one.
"The workouts are just a chance to get in and let these teams see your face and get a feel for you," Pressey said. "A workout can help your stock, but these guys have seen you over an entire season so they know what you're capable of."
Pressey's approach to the draft is a little more cautious than Oriakhi's, but he remains optimistic that he can be selected anywhere between late-first round and late-second round, depending on where other point guards are drafted. He said the most important thing is to find a team that fits and will give him playing time.
"It's like picking a college to play for, except the teams are picking you now," Pressey said. "Colleges never knew what I was thinking, and now it's the exact opposite. I don't know what teams are thinking."
Teams looking at Pressey's three years at Missouri see a prolific passer with great court vision and a pesky defender, but they also see questionable decisions late in games and inconsistent outside shooting. Pressey's brilliance can be seen in the record books, where he is Missouri's all-time leader in assists (580) and steals (196). He averaged 11.9 points and 7.1 assists per game in 2012-13.
Pressey decided to forgo his senior season and enter the draft as a junior. He faced criticism during his final year at Missouri because of several critical late-game turnovers or poor shot selections that led to several close road losses, including at Arkansas and UCLA. Still, he said that going through the draft process with the other players in his class reaffirmed his decision to leave early. He spoke positively about his three years in college.
"We've been to the top of the world, and we also haven't done too well at times, so I've had a taste of both," Pressey said. "It helped me figure out how to be a better person and player and handle adversity. I couldn't have asked for a better place to play in college."
Pressey's NBA draft prospect profile says that he is a gutsy, imaginative passer with the quickness, playmaking and ball handling to succeed in the NBA. However, at 6-foot and 177 pounds, size is a concern for his future, as well as his ability to finish around the rim and hit a jumper consistently. His decision making is also listed as a weakness.
Bowers has been taking part in NBA workouts as well, and has had sessions with the Washington Wizards, according to the Wizards' draft website, in addition to working out in Florida, according to the Kansas City Star.
Bowers' NBA future is more in question because of his past problems with knee injuries, according to his NBA draft prospect profile, but he has the size and athletic ability to be a prospect. The profile says that he has to get bigger and stronger, as well as prove that his knees aren't a hindrance, but with his scoring ability from the inside and the outside he could garner some interest.
All three players are projected to go in the mid- to late second round or to go undrafted. Chad Ford, an ESPN NBA Draft insider, predicts Pressey will be drafted 51st overall to the Orlando Magic in his latest mock draft. Ford wrote that Pressey "sees the floor as well as any guard in the draft."
If they go undrafted, both Pressey and Oriakhi pledged to continue working toward their NBA dream through the summer league, where younger players typically get more playing time in hopes to making an NBA roster for the regular season. Both noted that there are several examples of undrafted players who went on to successful NBA careers.
"A lot of guys have done remarkable things after going undrafted. Udonis Haslem didn't get drafted, but he's won three NBA Championships," Oriakhi said. "I love watching guys like that, and it gives me motivation. All the people that passed on them saw they didn't give up."
Of course, the best situation for both players would be to see all their hard work pay off.
"Words won't be able to express how happy I'd be to get drafted," Pressey said. "But I know that it's not a guarantee, and it will just give me incentive to keep working hard and be on a roster come Oct. 1."
Oriakhi expressed a similar desire to keep working no matter what happens Thursday night.
"It's been fun for me, but I don't care honestly. I just want to get back on the floor and start playing again," Oriakhi said. "It doesn't matter if you're pick one or pick 60. When it's time to go to work you've got to lace up and prove yourself."
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder