Onuaku pumped for U-19 team

Louisville sophomore center Chinanu Onuaku made the U-19 USA Basketball that will participate starting next weekend in the FIBA World Championships. Onuaku averaged 3.0 points and 4.6 rebounds as a freshman but is expected to have a bigger role this season. Onuaku talked with Cardinal Authority about his summer.

Chinanu Onuaku began the offseason working on his own before school ended and then spent time at home in Lanham, Md., working out daily with his brother, former Syracuse and current Minnesota Timberwolves player, Arinze Onuaku.

Onuaku said that "really helped" his game and then he returned to Louisville to start workouts with his team, including many of the new additions to the Cardinals' roster.

The 6-foot-10 sophomore said he feels like his game has "really improved a lot," and last week it showed.

Onuaku was invited to tryout for the U-19 USA team that will play this summer in the FIBA World Championships and not only did he make the 12-man team but a source close to the team told Cardinal Authority he was "one of the most impressive players" at tryouts.

"It's a big thing for me," Onuaku told Cardinal Authority on Thursday night. "I've been working hard and I think this is a good start. I'm really excited to be able to play and show what I can do."

Onuaku said he was competitive every time he walked onto the floor and his new attitude of "going hard all the time," is what U of L coach Rick Pitino told him would not only land him on the team but help him next season with the Cardinals.

"He said I needed to play harder and I think all my hard work is going to pay off," Onuaku said. "I'm going to have to do a lot more next year because we have a different team. It should be fun."

Onuaku played arguably his best games as a freshmen in the first four last season for the Cardinals and then tailed off as the season went on. He started 26 of 35 games for the Cardinals but only averaged 17.8 minutes a game.

Pitino said recently that Onuaku "is in much better shape," than he was all of last season and that would help his game also progress. He's expected to battle Mangok Mathiang for the starting center position for the Cardinals.

"I've learned a lot," Onuaku said. "Last year really helped me a lot and I think I've gotten a lot better."

But for now, Onuaku isn't worried about next season. He leaves this weekend with the U-19 team for Greece. The tournament begins next Saturday and runs through July 5.

"The competition is going to be good," Onuaku said. "I think that will help me get a lot better, playing against the competition that we are going to see (in Greece)."

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