PORTSMOUTH — E.J. Onu already has his own Wikipedia page.
Now, if he can just have an official National Basketball Association contract.
Indeed, Onu, the seven-foot tall graduate of Shawnee State University’s exercise science program and a member of the 2021 NAIA National Championship-winning men’s basketball team, is working hard to accomplish that goal and dream —having recently signed an NBA Summer League contract with Western Conference semifinalist Memphis.
Onu’s participation in the NBA Summer League was confirmed on Twitter by his current club —the Niagara River Lions of the Canadian Elite Basketball League, which he joined by signing a professional contract with on April 5.
On June 28, the River Lions’ account tweeted the following and posted a photograph, with Onu retweeting it.
“Congratulations EJ! The River Lions are proud to announce that E.J. Onu (@ej35_ ) has signed an NBA Summer League Contract with the @memgrizz (Memphis Grizzlies). Good luck from your Niagara family and we’ll see you again after Summer League!”
Onu, originally undrafted out of Shawnee State following the 2020-21 season, first declared for the NBA Draft —while maintaining his college eligibility and entering the transfer portal.
A year ago on Wednesday (July 6) in fact, Onu announced he was remaining in the draft, but went undrafted late last July—and instead signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Dallas Mavericks to participate in the NBA Summer League.
An Exhibit 10 contract, according to the NBA’s latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, is a one-year deal worth the minimum salary.
The Mavericks actually signed and waived Onu twice —the first signing coming on Aug. 21 before being waived on Sept. 4.
He was signed again on Oct. 15, but was waived again merely a day later —although exactly a week later on Oct. 23, Onu signed with the Texas Legends of the NBA G League.
The Legends, which later released Onu on Jan. 13, are an affiliate of the Mavericks’ franchise.
A day later, Onu was signed by the Memphis Hustle, which is the Grizzlies’ NBA G League affiliate —and averaged six points and 3.7 rebounds in 25 total games.
He then joined the Niagara River Lions, of which he remains under contract as of this week —as the NBA Summer League tips off for 10 days in Las Vegas on Thursday.
In all, Onu originally worked out for 13 franchises, according to Beyond Athlete Management —as he tried to become the first player from the NAIA ranks to be drafted since Gaylon Nickerson was drafted with the 34th overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks in 1994.
Onu also would have been the first player with any basketball ties to Scioto County to be drafted by an NBA franchise since 1992, when Brett Roberts — the South Webster native and who later played at Morehead State — was drafted with the 54th and final pick of that year’s draft by the Sacramento Kings.
The franchises which Onu worked out for in alphabetical order include:
New Orleans Pelicans
Oklahoma City Thunder
Along with those workouts in individual team settings, Onu also worked out in front of scouts from various franchises at the NBA G-League Elite Camp and the Beyond Athlete Management Pro Day.
Onu led the NAIA in blocks per game and total blocks his senior season — unsurprisingly — and ultimately earned NAIA All-American honors twice, while winning the Mid-South Conference Defensive Player of the Year award three times.
In 2020-21, Onu was a first team all-MSC honoree — and won the conference’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Onu ultimately earned first team NAIA All-American honors, and was the central figure in Shawnee State’s run to the 2021 NAIA National Championship.
His season statistics for his final two Shawnee State seasons were similar (11.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg and 5.7 bpg as a junior and 16.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 4.5 bpg as a senior) —although the 240-pound Richmond Heights native averaged five more points per game as a senior.
Onu became Shawnee State’s all-time leader in blocked shots, while ranking third in career points and career rebounds.
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Information from Shawnee State University Athletics was used in this story.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved