As a sophomore 6-foot-9 Daniel Oturu led the state in rebounding and blocked shots. Thirteen games into his junior campaign Oturu has pushed his averages to 18.5 points, 18.2 rebounds, and 5.3 blocks per game shooting 61.5 percent from the field and 64.3 percent from the foul line for the 9-4 Raiders.
“At the beginning of the season we started slow, took a couple losses,” Daniel said. “Right now we are playing at a really high level. We bounced back to be 9-4 and we are looking to improve every day in practice. The goal is to win as many games as we can.”
Oturu scored his 33 points Friday night in many ways. There was a swished face-up jumper from 17 feet but also five two hand dunks many of which came on the backside of the defense getting second chance points.
Daniel also showcased one of the more sudden spin moves you will ever see against Woodbury defenders Nathan Bursch (a Gopher football recruit) and David Alston (a 2018 football prospect who starts in the post for the Royals).
Oturu scored against the pair attacking with a physical dribble to the rim and he shouldered turn in both directions finishing with a nice touch at five feet. There was also an up and under two hand dunk combination that would of made Kevin McHale blush. All of this represented the vast improvements that Oturu has made from a year ago.
“I feel like my game is progressing a lot,” Daniel said. “I work hard. I like to take bits and pieces of other people’s games and put them into mine. I see that as a good way to become a better scorer. I just try to also be as physical as possible but then finish with some finesse.”
Twenty-four hours before Oturu took the court against Woodbury he was in front of all of the local media selecting the Gophers as his future college choice. Oturu is excited to be a Golden Gopher commit.
“I love the Gophers so much,” Daniel said. “The coaching staff is really amazing and they showed me so much love. Coach Pitino is finally able to show what his guys that he’s recruited, he can show what they can do and they’ve been doing outstanding. They are really good this year and I expect them to go to the tournament.
“I chose Minnesota partially because I wanted to stay home. I want people that come and watch me all the time to have the opportunity to watch me play for my state and represent Minnesota.
“I want to be able to have that pride of playing for Minnesota, that pride of playing for the Gophers. That means a lot to me and I feel like I want to defend my state.”
Minnesota has been looking for active and versatile bigs ever since Pitino arrived at the University and Daniel is a great fit for what they do.
“I fit their style of play and no matter what role they have me in coming into my freshman year, I will do work and do whatever I can do to make the team better.”
Now Oturu goes from a recruit thinking about which offer to accept, to joining the Minnesota staff in trying to bring some players to Minnesota.
“I’m going to try and recruit as many guys as I can in our state,” Daniel stated. “I’m going to try and help get everybody, Race (Thompson), Tre (Jones), I will do my best to help get them here.”
Cretin-Derham Hall Head Coach Jerry Kline Jr has coached Daniel for three years and Kline spoke highly about Oturu’s character.
“Daniel is a playful kid that likes to have fun and he’s very loyal to his teammates and loyal to his school,” Kline said. “He’s one to be around that is fun to be engaged with and one to have fun with.
“Daniel is also a kid that wants to get better. He wants to work hard and you’ve seen different parts of his game come out especially tonight. We saw the face-up jumper, there was an up and under move, so he keeps growing.”
Oturu is playing center right now but with work he could be a versatile frontcourt big playing a couple spots.
“The guy we are seeing now will not be the guy we see in the future. He’s going to add 30 or 40 pounds to be so much stronger. Who knows how much he will continue to grow (Daniel has grown four inches in the last three years) as his growth plates are still open.
“That’s what we don’t know but we do know is Daniel works so hard at his game and he could be a stretch four going out to knock out that 19 footer. I think he is willing to work at that so he can be a complete player.”
Coach Kline was excited to see Daniel make his decision as Daniel has been a much more relaxed young man since putting on the maroon Minnesota sweatshirt and the golden Minnesota hat.
“I’m truly excited for Daniel, for his friends and family, and for the whole community here at Cretin-Derham Hall. Daniel is a loyal kid that really fell in love with Coach Pitino and Coach Ben Johnson.
“He hit it off right away when he went there on unofficials. You could just see the connection happen. And to be honest the new facilities also helped. When he gets on campus that will be available to him and that excites these kids.”