Osasumwen Osaghae
Osasu Osaghae backs down a defender in the post (Photo Credit: FIU Athletics)

Just over four years ago, a 6-foot-9, uncoordinated, out of shape, and 60-pounds-overweight big man prepared to walk onto the Lime Court at Florida International University. 

A walk-on to FIU after just recently picking up basketball later in his life, Osasu Osaghae would’ve probably called you crazy if you told him he would have even be preparing for the 2020 NBA Draft at the culmination of his collegiate playing career.

“From my freshman year, I could remember days when I didn’t get in the game and would practice on my own after,” Osaghae said.

Osaghae was a soccer playing growing up in his early and middle childhood. It wasn’t until his freshman year of high school, when he hit a growth spurt, that he made the switch over to basketball.

Fast-forward to his first few years at FIU and Osaghae was in the process of losing 60 pounds of weight, just to get into basketball shape. Throughout the course of his first two years with the Panthers, he only appeared in a handful of games.

Osaghae was still a walk-on at this point, paying for school while not on scholarship. That all changed the summer before his junior year, when FIU hired new coach Jeremy Ballard.

After just a few days with the team, Ballard recognized Osaghae’s upside and potential, awarding him a full-ride scholarship after practice.

“He told me the good news and I cried after,” Osaghae said.

Osaghae had a strong junior campaign, but it wasn’t until his senior year that he really started to garner national attention and potential NBA Draft interest.

He led the NCAA in blocks per game and block percentage last year, at marks of 3.7 per game and 13.8 percent. 

All the while, Osaghae averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game, taking home the Conference-USA Defensive Player of the Year award and making the All C-USA Team for the first time in his career.

“I didn’t even expect to put up the numbers I put up coming into this year. It was truly a testament to my hard work and development over these past few years,” Osaghae said.

Despite the great senior season he had, Osaghae’s, unfortunately, went undrafted, and it didn’t help to have the COVID-19 pandemic further muddying the waters throughout the pre-draft process this year.

“COVID definitely made an impact with not really knowing dates and when things will happen. The good from all of that has been the time to prepare; not just on the court but mentally as well,” Osaghae said.

However, NBA scouts and basketball scouts around the world have took note of Osaghae’s massive developmental strides over the past few years. Everyone speaks extremely highly of his character and intangibles.

“You don’t make it from walk-on to NCAA statistical leader without character, will, and perseverance,” Pro Basketball Combine Director of Scouting Jon Chepkevich said, regarding Osasu’s journey.

This strong will and strong character showed again, in front of Chepkevich and other scouts, most recently at the Pro Basketball Combine event held in Miami.

“Osasu was quite helpful with the logistics leading up to the workout to ensure we were on the same page, was appreciative of me coming through, and carried himself impressively throughout his workout,” Chepkevich said.

As for Osaghae, despite not getting the opportunities many others receive in the pre-draft process, he’s kept his head on strong and focused on the positives, even off the court.

“I feel as if I’ve grown so much throughout [the pre-draft process] and the family time I’ve gotten has been something I haven’t had since I was in high school,” Osaghae said.

Osasu Osaghae still has a long ways to go as a basketball player, but many scouts project he’ll be impactful at some level right away because of his defensive proficiency.

Offensively will be an area of interest for Osaghae to continue progressing, not only as a scorer, but as a screen-setter, short-roll passer and offensive rebounder.

Regardless, Osaghae’s main goal remains the same: to play in the NBA.

“If anyone has a track record that points toward being able to not only survive, but thrive, in the G-League or NBA, it’s Osasu,” Chepkevich said.

With the NBA Draft gone and undrafted free agency still at the forefront, Osasu Osaghae will look to land an Exhibit-10 or some form of a G-League deal before potentially taking his talents overseas.

“While the NBA may seem a long shot, his character provides a strong foundation for making that dream a reality,” Chepkevich said.