Skip to main content

Let's talk about Daniel Oturu's extremely bright future

The Gophers haven't produced an NBA Draft pick since 2004.

On March 26th, Kris Humphries officially announced his retirement from basketball. It mostly elicited two reactions: One, that he was married to Kim Kardashian, and two, that he had a solid, 13-year NBA career.

But there was a third, smaller reaction in Minnesota: a sigh. Humphries is the last Gopher men's basketball player to be drafted. A lottery pick in 2004, the Hopkins grad spent one year at the U before heading to the NBA. No one playing their college career in maroon and gold has followed since.

Amir Coffey heard enough from NBA teams to leave early. Trevor Mbakwe was deemed “a name to keep an eye on.” Rodney Williams was once considered a potential lottery pick. And there’s no way to quantify this, but I clearly remember eating a Subway sandwich in the St. Paul Midway shopping center parking lot on draft day 2006, listening to the radio while my dad was in OfficeMax, as someone on KFAN assured me the Timberwolves would use one of their three second-round picks on Vincent Grier. He went undrafted.

So 15 years and 900 names called later, the Gophers remain looking for someone to represent them at the next level as a draft pick. 

In sophomore Daniel Oturu, they likely have their man.

The Woodbury native has been an absolute monster through the first third of the season. Oturu is averaging 17.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks on 63% shooting. Those numbers are good for second, first, second, and fifth, respectively, in the Big Ten. Nationally, he’s in the top ten in rebounds and blocks per game, as well as double-doubles.

Outside of stats, however, is where he has really made his mark. 

Oturu flashed his potential while playing second-fiddle to Jordan Murphy last season, but has upped his game to another level this year. His post moves are more dominant, bullying his way through defenders on the block, and he’s showing more initiative taking guys off the dribble. His shooting is smoother from 15-18 feet and has extended to the three-point line. His passing, especially out of double teams, has vastly improved. So has his defensive awareness, perhaps best measured by how much easier teams get to the basket when he’s on the bench.

And in a league known for bruising big men, Oturu, listed at 6-10, 240 pounds, has held his own against two of the conference’s best, going for 22 points and 12 rebounds against Iowa’s Luka Garza (6-11, 260) and 14 points and 13 rebounds versus Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson (6-9, 270).

It’s not all perfect. Oturu turns the ball over far too much – he was called for traveling five times against the Hawkeyes – and has a tendency to get into foul trouble, both of which are, if not glaring, at least clear red flags for a big man looking to make the jump to the next level.

But let’s get back to the numbers for a second.

Oturu is averaging double figures in points and rebounds, along with more than three blocks. How rare is that? In the last ten years, just 10 players have done it (DePaul’s Paul Reed, who nearly hung a triple-double with blocks on the Gophers in November, is also doing it this year):

  • Paul Reed, DePaul (’19-’20): 15.5 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 3.4 BPG, 55% FG
  • Mo Bamba, Texas (’17-’18): 12.9 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 3.7 BPG, 54% FG
  • Jameel Warney, Stony Brook (’15-’16): 19.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3 BPG, 63% FG
  • Khem Birch, UNLV (’13-’14): 11.5 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 3.8 BPG, 51% FG
  • Anthony Davis, Kentucky (’11-’12): 14.2 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 4.7 BPG, 62% FG
  • Jamelle Hagins, Delaware (’11-’12): 12.4 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 3 BPG, 55% FG
  • Greg Mangano, Yale (’10-’11): 16.3 PPG, 10 RPG, 3 BPG, 48% FG
  • John Henson, North Carolina (’10-’11): 11.7 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.2 BPG, 50% FG
  • Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State (’10-’11): 16.4 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 3.4 BPG, 56% FG
  • Keith Benson, Oakland (’10-’11): 17.9 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.6 BPG, 55% FG
  • Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State (’09-’10): 13.8 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 4.7 BPG, 58% FG

Pretty impressive stuff, but let’s go a bit deeper. Part of what makes Oturu such a tantalizing player is his touch, and part of what makes him so impressive is the competition he faces, so how about two qualifiers: guys who shoot 60% and play in a power conference. What’s that list?

  • Anthony Davis, 2011-12: 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.7 blocks, 62% shooting
  • Daniel Oturu, 2019-20: 17.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.4 blocks, 63% shooting

That’s it!

Admitting this is blatantly cherry-picking stats, and that Oturu has two-thirds of the season left, the list of players averaging a double-double and three blocks on 60% shooting in the last decade is Anthony Davis and (currently) Daniel Oturu.

Now, let’s not kid ourselves – Oturu is no Anthony Davis. He’s not nearly the force, in any aspect of his game, Davis was in all aspects of his while leading Kentucky to a national championship, and it really isn’t even fair to put them in the same discussion.

But Oturu has become a force of his own nature: a 6-10 player who can run the floor, control the paint on both ends, and shoot.

Has the NBA taken notice?

Per the Salt Lake Tribune’s Kurt Kragthorpe, KSTP’s Darren Wolfson (and again), and 247Sports’ Sean Bock (through Wolfson), scouts from teams including the Bucks, Clippers, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Knicks, Mavericks, Nuggets, Pistons, and Raptors have attended the Gophers’ games versus Utah, Clemson, Iowa, and Ohio State to watch Oturu.

In other words, Oturu seems likely to break the streak and walk across the stage on draft night. Given the nature of the draft, we should enjoy him in maroon and gold while we can.

Note: Colton Iverson (2013) and Royce White (2012) are ex-Gophers who were drafted after leaving the U of M to play at different colleges. 

Next Up

Karl-Anthony Towns

Timberwolves survive Knicks' second-half barrage to get back to .500

Karl-Anthony Towns' lay-in helped Minnesota get a win in The Garden.

FLickr - crime scene tape do not crozz

Charges: MN teen shot mom after dispute over meth

The girl's mother said there had been a dispute over methamphetamine.

bad roads, blizzard

No travel advised: High winds, whiteout conditions in NW MN

Zero visibility in parts of greater Minnesota Tuesday night.

holy angels high school j nelson

Update: Holy Angels evacuated over bomb threat, school says

Someone left a voicemail early Tuesday suggesting there was an explosive device.

radio station, microphone

Convicted stalker charged with harassment of another DJ at The Current

He pleaded guilty to similar charges involving the DJ's colleague back in 2015.

Mall of America exterior Tyler Vigen Wikimedia COmmons

10 new shops, food stops at Mall of America

Donuts, K-fashion, model cars — the new tenants cover a lot of bases.

Gophers basketball

Gophers fall below roster minimum, postpone Penn State game

It is "due to internal COVID-19 protocols within the Golden Gopher program."

Raheem Morris

Report: Vikings request interview with Rams' Raheem Morris

Morris was once the youngest head coach in the NFL at 33 years old.

train crossing S Boardman Ave, New York Mills, Minnesota - August 2013 crop GSV

Sheriff: Drunk driver crashed trying to 'beat the train'

The BNSF train slammed into the side of the driver's car.


Man run over after parking dispute leads to road rage crash

The two groups fought about parking prior to the crash.

hwy 41 engler boulevard crash crop

Deadly crash shuts down small stretch of Chaska highway for hours

A driver crossed over the center median and hit another vehicle.

covid test 6

You can now order 4 free at-home COVID tests from the government

Tests will ship for free within 7-12 days, according to the White House.


Daniel Oturu

Will Sunday be Daniel Oturu's final game at Williams Arena?

The big man could be destined for the NBA Draft.

Oturu among the bright spots from Gophers' loss to Oklahoma

An ugly final 12 minutes cost the Gophers a win over a Big 12 team.

Daniel Oturu's 20-20 game leads Gophers over FIU

Oturu, Gabe Kalscheur and Marcus Carr were tremendous in the victory.

Daniel Oturu

Oturu, Carr lead Gophers to win over Northwestern

The big man has nine double-doubles this season.

Daniel Oturu

Gophers' Oturu heads to Knicks, then Clipplers after trade with Wolves

Oturu is the first men's Gopher basketball player drafted since 2004.

Daniel Oturu

Gophers' Daniel Oturu to declare for NBA Draft

The sophomore from Cretin-Derham Hall averaged a double-double for the Gophers.

Daniel Oturu

Gophers' Daniel Oturu snubbed from All-Big Ten First Team

Oturu was named to the second team while Marcus Carr was an honorable mention.

Screen Shot 2020-01-03 at 8.06.40 AM

Gophers lose double-overtime battle at Purdue

Daniel Oturu had another monster game for the Gophers.