Of the three UCLA freshmen who declared for the NBA draft this year, Ike Anigbogu was the one who most fit the term of “project”. Anigbogu did not start during his UCLA career; in fact, he only averaged 13 minutes a game during his one season, and missed time due to a knee injury. Ike averaged 4.7 PPG, to go with 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. Not exactly numbers that scream first-round talent.
And yet that’s exactly what most pundits expect Ike Anigbogu to be.
They say you can’t teach height and length, and that’s what Ike has in spades. His length and aggressiveness on the defensive end, combined with his leaping ability to put down lobs make him potentially good in the pick-and-roll. Ike Anigbogu may not have shown a ton in his UCLA career, but his style should fit the constantly-evolving NBA well.
It’s hard to pick a standout game for Ike, if only because he just didn’t play a ton. Sure, there were games where he showed flashes, but he never really had a game where he was the clear star. I went back and checked all of the post-game reactions I wrote last season (and there were a lot) and I never awarded Ike a Player of the Game honor. If I’m going by stats, his best game was probably the road game against Arizona State, the only game where Ike got to double digits in points, to go with 6 rebounds and 3 blocks in 20 minutes of game time. Most impressively, he managed to do this while only picking up 1 foul.
But Ike did come close in two games, and pointing out what I wrote in those two games should also highlight just why he can be a special player.
After the road win against Kentucky:
As for Ike Anigbogu, he was called on early to provide meaningful minutes for Thomas Welsh, who was in early foul trouble, and Anigbogu completely changed the tenor of the Bruins defense. Kentucky suddenly found itself unable to drive inside thanks to Anigbogu’s presence. Ike doesn't pop off the stat sheet, but his 17 minutes were absolutely crucial for getting UCLA back into the game.
And for the following win against Michigan:
Ike Anigbogu has arrived - I could have talked about UCLA again showing their offense is legit against another top defense (seriously, 67.2% on the game against a probable tournament team is ridiculous), but Ike deserves some praise. With Thomas Welsh hurt, and GG Goloman in foul trouble basically the entire game, Anigbogu was forced to play some big minutes, and boy did he deliver. The offensive game still needs work, but for a guy who didn’t get to work on his game against cupcakes like the rest of the team, Ike has shown to be a defensive force for a Bruin team that could use a rim protector. The box score gave Anigbogu 4 blocks officially, but I felt the number was closer to 7, to go along with the shots he affected with his presence. Before the season, no one knew what we were going to get from Anigbogu, especially with the injury keeping him out of early action, but he’s proving himself to be a game-changer so far, and brings a different presence when he’s in the game.
Ike popped in those games because he completely changed the UCLA defensive ability when he was on the court, and that’s why I’m choosing these two for being Ike’s best games.
What the Scouts Are Saying
From the DraftExpress profile on Ike:
The intrigue with Anigbogu starts with his excellent frame, standing 6'10" with long arms, an excellent standing reach, and a strong lower body. He's also quick on his feet, fast off the ground, changes direction well, has a very quick second jump, and brings a consistently high energy level, providing him with many of the attributes that NBA teams look for in the modern NBA big man. Those physical tools provide Anigbogu with a strong starting point, allowing him to make an impact even as his overall skill level catches up.
Also this Bleacher Report article on Anigbogu’s slipping draft stock (though they still had him getting picked in the 20s):
The case for UCLA's Ike Anigbogu used to be simple—he's 6'10", 250 pounds and has a 9'3" reach and 7'6" wingspan.
If only it were so simple.
Anigbogu is simply a victim of the modern draft process. The longer scouts look, the more they see a guy who struggled to score, relied overly on motor and might struggle as a pro defender due to certain testing measurements.
There’s been a pretty simple story of Ike’s stock: his measurables and energy make him a great prospect, but he’s raw. Very raw. And some teams are starting to worry about that.
Look, for how projectable Ike is, it’s still a big concern just how unrefined he is offensively. Ike never really developed a post game, or even much of an outside shot, during his time at UCLA, and that will be a problem at the next level. Even if he just developed a better touch around the rim, that’d go a long way towards making his offensive contributions good enough to justify large minutes.
Even on the defensive end, there are some concerns, specifically that Ike might be a bit too aggressive. I’m not going to go back and look at the game threads, but I’m pretty sure there was a point in every single game where people lamented Ike going for blocks rather than stay on the ground. It led to a lot of unnecessary fouls from Ike, but that’s the kind of recognition that Ike can develop with playing time.
But I think these concerns won’t be enough to knock him out of the first round. Look, despite all these problems, Ike has the measurables NBA GMs dream about. He’s got the body of a prototypical 5 in the small-ball era, able to stick on smaller players without giving up a step, and he has the ability to clog the paint while also being able to protect the perimeter, and that’s no small thing.
If I was making bets, I’d say that Ike Anigbogu gets picked in the 20s, because the potential is too much to pass up.
Good luck, Ike, and thanks for your contributions to UCLA basketball!