For OG Anunoby, the focus on the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee began in January. He was in his sophomore season at Indiana University, emerging as one of the top two-way prospects in college basketball, yet soon his family members were consoling him with positive reinforcement.
Four months into his rehab for a torn ACL, Anunoby has progressed to set shots and jumping. The 6-foot-8 forward is expected to start running soon and participate in more basketball-related activities in June. When most college students were preoccupied with classwork, Anunoby was working toward a successful comeback on the court and once again being the dynamic athlete who is projected to be a lottery selection.
“I have a lot of motivation because I know a lot of players have came back better than ever, and I want to do the same,” Anunoby told The Vertical. “This has been the chance for me to work on ball-handling, my shooting mechanics, shooting consistency, free-throw shooting, creating for others and myself, defending position-less basketball – those are the keys for me at the next level.
“My rehab has been going great, doing a lot of strength drills and core work. I can do set shots, and now I need to get more dynamic as the months continue. I’ll be jogging, shooting, working on my strength soon. I want people to know how hardworking of a player I am.”
Anunoby credits his family for molding his work ethic. His brother, Chigbo, was a former NFL lineman who helped instill the attitude necessary to succeed as a professional. However, Anunoby stands as one of the biggest mysteries in the June 22 draft, along with UCLA’s Ike Anigbogu and Kentucky’s Hamidou Diallo. The 6-foot-10 Anigbogu averaged 4.7 points and four rebounds in 13 minutes a game as a freshman, but NBA executives consider him a possible lottery selection. Diallo is deciding whether to remain in the draft and be a none-and-done after enrolling in Kentucky in January but electing not to play.
Anunoby averaged 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists last season, and believes his versatility sets him apart.
“While I think I’m a three, I’m confident that I can play three, four, five and even two – and defend at all of those positions, too,” Anunoby told The Vertical.
Anunoby had a positive four-month checkup in New York this week and has remained optimistic about his rehabilitation.
“People will get to know me during interviews, and my goal is to play next season,” Anunoby told The Vertical. “We were rolling at first this past season, then we had a rough stretch before we turned it back on. Then I got hurt, and it stung.
“Coming into the season, I knew I would want to pursue the NBA, and my family and my love for the game motivated me to prove myself coming back from the injury. I want to prove that I can still go high in this draft and be one of the better players.”
More from The Vertical:
• LeBron makes clear to Celtics who is No. 1 in the East
• Chris Mannix: Inside the NBA’s lottery drawing room
• Woj Report: What the Lakers’ No. 2 pick means for them
• Why Steph Curry has waited until now for his rampage