Rookie Okogie energizing Wolves, fans

The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t exactly Timberpups anymore. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are well into their NBA careers at this point, while the Wolves’ lineup features seven players with 5-plus years of experience.

Welcome to the 2018-19 edition of the Young Wolves Tracker, formerly the Timberpups Tracker.

Each Thursday we’ll either track the progress of the Iowa Wolves players who might be of help to the Timberwolves in the future, or a current member of Minnesota’s roster. We’ll also give updates on the other young players from the previous week.

This is the 7th edition of the 2018-19 Young Wolves Tracker.


Forward Josh Okogie

Wolves Twitter has a new darling: Okogie, the former Georgia Tech star and the 20th overall pick in last summer’s draft.

We are not quite at folk-hero status, but just 23 games into the Okogie era, the rookie has already established himself as a fan favorite.

He appears to be a Wolves favorite, too.

Karl-Anthony Towns was beside himself on the bench after Okogie dunked all over the Sacramento Kings on Monday (more on that in a moment), and Robert Covington was there to mess with the rookie during his postgame interview.

Jim Petersen and Dave Benz have fanned the flames a bit, helping the nascent nickname “Obi-Wan Okogie” transition from Twitter to TV.

None of which is to say that this is baseless hype: Okogie still isn’t logging tons of minutes, but he’s making them count.

He played nearly 28 minutes in that 27-point win over the Kings after mostly sitting for three straight games (all losses), energizing the Wolves with some spectacular play in the second quarter.

Okogie strung together one of the most thrilling sequences of his young career midway through the second quarter, dunking on the Kings, racing back down for a block, then setting up another score.

First: The dunk. Okogie threw down so furiously on Sactown that players several feet from the basket were tripping over themselves for some reason.

Troy Williams and Skal Labissiere were very literally shook.

The rookie hustled back down the court, blocked an attempted layup, then dished it to Gorgui Dieng for an easy bucket down at the other end to make it 50-26, Wolves.

Towns’ reaction was almost as good as the action on the court.

Okogie wasn’t done, hooking up with Tyus Jones a few minutes later on an alley-oop, finishing with 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting, three rebounds, three assists, two steals a block and one turnover.

It’s an appropriate pairing, considering Wolves’ fans affection for Jones (#FreeTyus), the Apple Valley, Minn., native.

Okogie hasn’t started since Nov. 9, but if he keeps playing like this, the calls to get the rookie in more often are only going to get louder.


— It wasn’t a spectacular week for Towns, who shot just 42.3 percent from the field and went 3-for-17 from the arc in three games.

— Same for Wiggins, whose resurgence earlier this month has given way to a three-game string of 38.1 percent shooting.

— The Iowa Wolves played their final game before an extended holiday break Monday, beating the Westchester Knicks 113-106.

— Minnesota’s other draft pick, Keita Bates-Diop, struggled in that one, scoring 12 points on 4-of-14 shooting with seven rebounds, three steals, three blocks and two assists.

Dario Saric started Saturday for the first time since joining the Wolves via the Jimmy Butler trade, scoring 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting with 11 rebounds and two assists.