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Columbia Missourian

UPDATE: Missouri's Oriakhi drafted No. 57 by Phoenix Suns; Pressey to sign with Celtics

By Harrison McLean
June 27, 2013 | 11:53 p.m. CDT
Former Missouri forward Alex Oriakhi celebrates after a successful rebound against Vanderbilt on Jan. 26 at Mizzou Arena. Oriakhi was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft on Thursday.

This story has been updated to reflect that Phil Pressey is expected to sign with the Boston Celtics, according to the Kansas City Star.

COLUMBIA — Alex Oriakhi was waiting for the phone call all night. When it came from his agent shortly after 11 Thursday night, it was short and sweet.


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"Fifty-seven. Phoenix Suns," his agent told him.

Oriakhi was the only former Missouri basketball player to be drafted in Thursday night's NBA Draft. He was the third to last player picked in the 60-player draft, but he was still grateful.

"I'm feeling a lot better now," he said by phone, relieved after waiting for more than three hours to hear his name called. "I'm happy the Suns gave me a chance, and blessed to have this opportunity."

Other Tigers draft hopefuls included Phil Pressey and Laurence Bowers. And some thought Keion Bell had a chance to be selected too, but Oriakhi was the only one to get picked.

The Kansas City Star reported Friday morning that Pressey is expected to sign with the Boston Celtics.

Oriakhi became the 43rd former Missouri player to be drafted, including the third in the past two years joining Marcus Denmon and Kim English who were drafted last year.

"Both schools (Oriakhi played his first three seasons at Connecticut) can say that I'm a pro," Oriakhi said. "Hopefully that can look good for the programs for recruiting."

The long wait was stressful for Oriakhi, and as the night continued, he had doubts that he would be drafted. He said at that point, he would be happy to go anywhere.

"I was watching seeing these guys who averaged three points going ahead of me, and I was thinking 'what's going on?'" he said. "I was starting to get sleepy, thinking that it's unfortunate. But then I got that call and I was so relieved."

Once the stress of waiting was over, Oriakhi said that he would relax for the night and get some sleep, but he would get right back to work in the gym tomorrow. But, for the night, he couldn't get rest quite yet until he checked his phone, which he said was "going crazy" right after he got drafted.

Oriakhi said that he would discuss with his agent what the next step in the process would be. It is expected that he will play with the Suns' NBA Summer League team to try and make a roster spot once the regular season approaches.

Even after a few minutes, Oriakhi still seemed to be in disbelief of his draft experience.

"My mission is to make a story out of this," he said. "I'm motivated to prove myself right that I belong, and time will tell who works out."

Oriakhi played only one season for Missouri, but it was a productive one. He averaged a personal best in points per game at 11.2, as well as 8.4 rebounds per game. He improved his shooting and free-throw percentages from his first three years, which he spent at the University of Connecticut where he won a national championship in 2010-11.

Oriakhi brought both an offensive and defensive presence as a center at Missouri, but is considered undersized to be a power forward in the NBA according to his NBA Draft Prospect Profile. Like Pressey, Oriakhi was projected to be a late-second rounder or go undrafted due to offensive limitations and size, despite being a strong defender in the post.

Oriakhi participated in several pre-draft workouts with about 10 teams as well, traveling cross country to work out with teams including the Suns.

Pressey declared for the NBA Draft despite being projected as a late-second round pick or going undrafted by Chris Dortch on his NBA Draft Prospect Profile. His decision making, size and inconsistent jumper hurt his prospects, but his play-making ability and court vision caught teams' eyes.

Pressey participated in the NBA Combine on May 16 and 17, as well as doing personal workouts for about 10 teams including the Houston Rockets, Brooklyn Nets and twice with the Boston Celtics.

Bowers spent five very productive seasons at MU and became a fan favorite for his dedication to the program. After playing sparingly his freshman year, he averaged double figures in points his sophomore and junior seasons.

After being named to the All-Big XII Defensive Team after the 2010-11 season, Bowers was expected to be a key member of the 2011-12 team but tore his anterior cruciate ligament during practice and didn't play a game that season. Despite this, he traveled with the team every game, becoming the team's biggest fan. He would frequently be seen in a suit on the bench waving a towel over his head, urging his teammates on.

He came back for his senior season after redshirting in 2011-12 and immediately became one of the team's most effective players. He led the team in scoring, averaging 14.1 points per game despite missing five games in the middle of the season with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Despite the injuries, he was named All-SEC Second Team at the end of the season.

Bowers' knee injuries raised concerns going into the draft and was not projected to be drafted according to his prospect profile despite his production and athleticism. Still, he worked out during the offseason, including a workout with the Washington Wizards.

After three very productive seasons at Pepperdine, Bell transferred to Missouri for his senior season where he saw a reduced role. As the main scoring option at Pepperdine, Bell averaged over 18 points per game, but that number dropped to 10.7 on the deeper roster.