Wolves’ hard-working Okogie improving but not satisfied

CHICAGO — In the short 19 months Josh Okogie has been a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, he has already had two different head coaches, been part of two significant franchise-altering trades and has had 30 different teammates. In fact, Okogie and perennial NBA All-Star Karl Anthony-Towns are the only remains of the 2018 Wolves’ roster.

“The fun part is me trying to readjust to the team that I’ve stayed on,” laughed Okogie while at the recent All-Star weekend, where he played in the Rising Stars game. “I think it’s kind of weird, I tell everybody all the time it felt like I got traded, too, because I’m in a whole new team as well. Like I said, the fun part is trying to readjust and to just learn about the guys and try and get used to them.”

More Timberwolves coverage

Okogie began the season coming off the bench but has now stepped into a starting spot for Minnesota, earning that role in the final four games before the All-Star break. He is averaging 8.6 points, 4.4 rebounds for the year, but since the 6-foot-4 shooting guard’s duties have increased so has his offense. He’s averaged 13.5 points a game over his last six contests (with 27.7 minutes per game, which is above his season average of 24.4), including a career-high 23 points vs. Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 5.

“I just work and got better, but my biggest thing is staying consistent,” said Okogie on his recent scoring success. “I didn’t start off the season how I wanted it to, but the past couple months it has shot up. My job is to keep going up, I don’t even think I’m where I want to be.”

The hard-working drive that Okogie puts forth to improving on the court isn’t a coincidence. It’s a constant mindset that he became wise to by watching and emulating his oldest brother Dr. Evaristus Okogie succeed by determination and overcoming odds himself.

“Coming from Nigeria, without having much, my brother showed be that you don’t need much to get much out of yourself,” said Okogie. “With limited resources he became a dentist, so he really showed me that it doesn’t matter where you come from and how much you have, if you stay dedicated anything is possible.”

Okogie has shown he is a viable NBA player and although his offensive game is still in the works, his defense has always been there. His 1.1 steals per game ranks Okogie in the top 50 of all NBA players, tied with the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jaylen Brown, Donovan Mitchell and P.J. Tucker. Last season he finished 18th in the league in steal percentage (2.4%).

Back in 2018 – despite having solid pre-draft resume after playing at Georgia Tech, where he averaged 18.2 points a game during his sophomore year — an early season injury made him fall out of favor on a lot of draft lists and he had a glaring choice to make about his professional status.

“After the season was over, the (draft) stock didn’t really rise, so I had to decide whether if I was going to stay in (the 2018 NBA draft) or go back to college,” Okogie recalled, “and I was like I’m going to bet on myself.

“It looks like it worked out.”