Louisville sophomore Chinanu Onuaku has shown major improvement in the first two games for the Cardinals

University of Louisville sophomore center Chinanu Onuaku has shown major improvement in two games this season for the University of Louisville basketball team. Onuaku is averaging 14.5 points and seven rebounds a game for the Cardinals (2-0).

It's only been two games for the University of Louisville men's basketball team but the staff is impressed.

Not just with the two victories but one player in particular - Chinanu Onuaku.

The 6-foot-10 sophomore center has shown major improvement on both ends of the floor, averaging 14.5 points and seven rebounds a game for the Cardinals (2-0).

"He's really improved a lot," assistant coach Ralph Willard said. "He's worked extremely hard and I know the thing Rick is so impressed with is that he's dominating in other ways - he's blocking shots and pursuing rebounds. He's doing a lot of good things.

"I think a lot of it has to do with confidence, but confidence has to do with hard work."

Pitino has called Onuaku the MVP in the first two games of the season.

In the win over Samford, Onuaku had 11 points, five rebounds and five blocked shots in just 14 minutes and then he had a career-high 18 points and nine rebounds in the blowout win over Hartford.

"He has really matured and is really playing well," Rick Pitino said. "He's not there but he's getting better and better."

As a freshman, Onuaku started 26 games games for the Cardinals but didn't show a lot of offensive prowess. He only played sparingly in the NCAA Tournament run for the Cardinals.

After the season, Pitino said he had "a long, long way to go."

But over the summer, Onuaku put in extra time. He spent time working with his brother - Arinze - who plays professionaly in Isreal and then played on the U19 World Championship team that won a gold medal.

"It really helped me a lot," Onuaku said. "My brother was big for me. He taught me a lot of things, playing one-on-one and working out. I really came a long way during the summer."

Onuaku said he knows he's "still a long ways" from being the player he wants to be. But he's on a great path. In Puerto Rico, Onuaku averaged 9.1 points and 8.1 rebounds in two games.

In the first two games, he's made 13 of 18 from the field and 3 of 5 free throws - under handed.

“He’s worked extremely hard and he’s doing a lot of little things," Willard said. "His screens have gotten a lot better. His rebounding, in terms of pursuing the basketball has gotten a lot better. Obviously his offensive moves are getting better and will continue to get better as he gains more and more confidence. His attitude has been great. Coach made a point after the last game that his attitude has been off the charts in terms of his cheering for his teammates, rooting his teammates on, not worrying about his stats, his time. That’s the kind of attitude you need on a team going forward into the season and certainly into the ACC.”

Onuaku has been projected as a potential NBA Draft pick after this season but said he's not worried.

"I don't think about that," he said. "I just want to get better."

And his teammates believe he's going to keep getting better.

"He's come a long, long way since he got here," junior Mangok Mathiang said. "He's working so much harder and he's focused and mature. He can be the best big man in the ACC."

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