Mar 20, 2021; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; St. Bonaventure Bonnies forward Osun Osunniyi (21) moves to the basket against the Louisiana State Tigers during the second half in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
That’s been the most used phrase to describe Iowa State’s latest addition to its 2022-23 frontcourt, St. Bonaventure transfer Osun Osunniyi.
The 6-foot-10, 220-pound two-time Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year is the type of player who can change games with his shot-blocking ability.
He’s the type of player who forces teams to alter their gameplans with the rim being off-limits. This is the kind of addition that can take Iowa State’s defense, which was already elite in 2021-22, to an even higher level.
Couple Osunniyi with VCU transfer Hason Ward, an A-10 All-Defense selection in 2020-21, and you’ve got a pair of elite paint defenders with high-level athleticism and defensive instincts that can anchor your team on that end for 40 minutes every night.
“It really can be impactful,” Iowa State head coach T.J. Otzelberger said late last week. “When you look at not only with Osun, but also Hason Ward, each guy, ironic they’re coming from the A-10, but Osun was the Defensive Player of the Year back to back years, Hason has had the highest defensive rating of guys that have been on the floor. So he’s a guy that’s highly disruptive, also a shot blocker, also generates turnovers. So, having guys like that with that size, and that length, and that athleticism on your front line, and protecting the goal gives you a chance to erase baskets at the rim, contest a lot more shots and hopefully get us out in transition even more.”
As of this writing, The Athletic ranks Osunniyi as the No. 8 most impactful transfer commitment of the 2022 transfer recruiting cycle. The Pleasantville, N.J. native averaged 11.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game this past season for the Bonnies.
His addition is significant when you consider the no-middle defense Iowa State installed with massive success during year one under Otzelberger.
That defensive scheme is great when you’ve got really good guards who can execute it, but it becomes nearly impenetrable when you couple really good guards with elite rim protection.
“When you look at the numbers and the efficiency defensively, obviously, we’re fifth in the country in overall efficiency and I think third or fourth in turnover percentage. So, to get better than that would mean we’re maybe the best in the country at it,” Otzelberger said. “I think we will be really good. I do like our length and feel like we’ve put this together very specifically to have that defensive length and athleticism to be able to not only disrupt but also protect the rim. Excited to get to practice this summer and see what it looks like with those guys out there, but I’m not going to jump ahead too far and say it’s going to be better than last year or compare it, because we’re fortunate with what our guys did, and hopefully we’re gonna accomplish that same thing this year.”
It will be even more interesting to track Osunniyi’s growth on the offensive end, where he’s shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor through the first four years of his career.
He’s been a highly-efficient player around the rim throughout his entire college career and is coming to Ames with the hopes of growing that offensive game even further to better his future professional prospects.
Iowa State is going to try and help him do that by making him one of the focal points of the offense, whether that means spending time in the short-corner dunker’s spot or catching the ball with his back to the basket and opening things up for his post-game.
“Osun has proven to score in transition, he’s proven to score running to the rim, he’s proven to score on the offensive glass,” Otzelberger said. “We’re going to expand his game, we’re gonna challenge him and encourage him. We’re going to empower him to knock down open face-up jump shots. We’re going to empower him to beat his man off the dribble and get to the basket. In situations where we feel like we have that advantage, we’ll go to him on the block. So we really want to expand his offensive game and think that doing so will make our team and our overall offense better with that.”