Regular readers here at FB&G know Xavier, our friend the professional coach in Barcelona. In the wake of the draft, he was kind enough to throw a few words together for us on 2009 Lakers draftee Chinemelu Elonu. Elonu currently plays professionally in Spain, so Xavier is familiar with Elonu’s game and progress. A special thanks to Xavier for taking the time to give us some insight on the Lakers’ oversees prospect. —Darius
Chinemelu Elonu is the Nigerian 6-10 Power Forward the Lakers drafted in the 2nd round (59th overall) in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Elonu, 23 years old, played for Texas A&M for 3 seasons, and only his junior season was remarkable, posting 9.8 points on 66.5% FG, 7.3 rebounds (2.9 off) and 1.6 blocks in less than 24 minutes.
After that, he moved to Spain to play for CAI Zaragoza in Spanish 2nd division league. Zaragoza is a pretty competitive team for a 2nd division team and they proved that by promoting to ACB (1st league in Spain) for the 2010/11 season. In 09/10, Elonu averaged 6.3 points on 60.2% FG, 5.8 rebounds (2 off) and 1.5 blocks in 19 minutes.
The guy I compare him to, Ibaka (24th overall in ’08), had a similar path in pro basketball. He also played a season in LEB Oro (Spanish 2nd division) for Hospitalet (this is a team you may know as their U-18 team holds an international tournament every year where one of the invitations is always for Oak Hill Academy) playing at an outstanding level (12 pts 8 reb and 3 blocks). Then he played for ACB team Ricoh Manresa posting solid numbers and showing his athletic ability and potential. That earned him his trip to the 1st round of the draft and lately playing against the Lakers in the playoff in his rookie season.
At 6-10 and 235lbs is quite an athlete. Dunks the ball with power and takes pride for being a good offensive rebounder and shot blocker. That’s why you can compare him to OKC’s Serge Ibaka. But don’t get too excited with that, he’s a poorman’s Ibaka (not just poor but almost homeless). Elonu is athletic but not as much as Serge, can dunk the ball but that’s the only move he has and he has to prove yet he can play at least at an ACB level, which he hasn’t. More over, he’s 23 (Ibaka is 20 right now, 21 in September) and has nowhere near the potential of other 23 years old international players.
Elonu would need (not just he would benefit of it, he NEEDS it) of a year or two competing at ACB level of competition – which is, by the way much higher than D-League or even Italian Lega, where Jennings couldn’t get on the floor because he was not a team player – before even trying the NBA. He doesn’t have Ibaka’s potential and is 2 years older than his fellow African. At 23, you’d better be a beast or very smart to make the NBA, and he’s neither of those things. But hey! Mbenga is still eating tacos and now-actor Stanislav Medvedenko (appearing along with Carmen Electra in this movie) made it and they both got championship rings, right?
Bottom line, Elonu is a great guy, worker, banger who goes hard on the glass but limited offensively and potential wise. A couple more years in Europe could make him earn a spot on an NBA roster but at the moment, I can’t see him making the team as 4th or 5th big man over Caracter or Powell.