Onyeka Okongwu solidified history when the Atlanta Hawks selected him No. 6 overall in last week’s draft.
With the selection, the Chino Hills 2015-16 boys basketball team became the first high school team in history to produce three NBA Draft lottery picks. Lonzo Ball and LaMelo Ball were the other two selections.
The Huskies went 35-0 and beat opponents by an average of 28.4 points per game that season. A starting lineup of freshman LaMelo, junior Eli Scott, junior LiAngelo Ball, senior Lonzo and freshman Okongwu entered uncharted territory in high school basketball history and entered its name as the greatest high school basketball team of all time.
“Not a lot of public schools have three top 10 picks in the draft,” Okongwu said. “I really believe that Eli Scott will get drafted next year as well. We had a lot of players on that team who went to Division I programs on that team, too.”
Chino Hills became the hottest topic in high school basketball, and the players knew it. While the Huskies were up 87-38 over Mater Dei, Lonzo blocked Monarchs’ senior Bailey Stout’s layup attempt on a drive before securing the rebound. Lonzo then dumped off the ball to Chino Hills sophomore Cameron Shelton, who looked up to LaMelo in transition when the freshman guard took two dribbles across the top of the key before zipping a no-look pass on the post to a cutting-Scott. Scott flushed down a right-handed tomahawk over 6-foot-5 Monarchs’ sophomore Reagan Lundeen along the baseline.
As the gym went wild, Scott commemorated the dunk by flexing both arms and staring into the viral-YouTube channel BallerVision’s camera lens. LaMelo and Scott then met at Chino Hills’ three-point line to do a handshake before Lonzo jumped to shoulder bump the 6-4 junior. After the shoulder bump, Lonzo and LaMelo turned around and ran back on defense because play never stopped. Chino Hills’ mid-game celebration allowed Mater Dei to get an open dunk and cut the deficit down to 49 points.
“You don’t see public school teams go 35-0, No. 1 in the country, with one senior on that team,” Okongwu said. “We were a very young team winning all those games, so I knew Melo was going to be special, Melo knew I was going to be special and Lonzo believed in us both. Lonzo just carried the team and gave us all confidence, shout out to him.”
Lonzo averaged 23.9 points, 11.5 assists, 11.3 rebounds, 5.1 steals and 1.9 blocks per game that season. He was named the All-USA Boys Basketball Player of the Year, the Naismith High School Player of the Year and the Morgan Wootten Player of the Year.
Former Chino Hills coach Steve Baik pointed to Jan. 15, 2015, as the turning point for the Huskies.
With Okongwu’s older brother, Nnamdi, tragically passing away at 17 in 2014, the summer before his senior season, a couple of players leaving the program and one athlete ruled ineligible, Lonzo and LiAngelo spent a lot of time in the 2014-15 season playing center defensively. Jan. 15 was a tournament game against Oak Hill Academy, and national scouts saw Lonzo hold his own at center while running the offense with his guard skills per usual. Chino Hills lost the game 86-77, but Lonzo’s breakout game put the Southern California program on the map heading into the next season.
Chino Hills began the next season with a traditional center in 6-9 freshman Okongwu, who wore No. 21 to honor his late brother. Okongwu also wore 21 at USC, but with the number retired in Atlanta by Dominique Wilkins, he has decided to wear 17, against an online-fan push to get him to wear 7 for the nickname “007.”
“I get that reference a lot,” Okongwu said in regard to the “007” suggestion before smiling. “I think it’s from an old James Bond movie being ‘007,’ but I’m going to be 17. That was my favorite number growing up, and that was also my brother’s age when he passed away, so I’m able to rep my favorite number and how old he was when he passed away.”
Chino Hills’ undefeated 2015-16 season with its new freshman center, point guard and national player of the year combined with the personality of the three Ball brothers’ father, LaVar, made Huskies’ players celebrities.
Okongwu comes to the Hawks with 165,000 Instagram followers, which immediately puts him fourth on the team in the category. Trae Young has over 2 million followers, Rajon Rondo has over a million and Danillo Gallinari has over 400,000 followers. Bogdan Bogdanovic has over 590,000 followers, for those wondering.
Daijon Davis, a 6-5 junior who transferred to Chino Hills in 2016, leveraged his notoriety from being on the team as a figurative rock star to become a literal rock star when he launched his music career as DC The Don. Davis grew to 6-7 and was rated a three-star prospect by ESPN when he turned down college to pursue music. Under his DC The Don alias, he’s gained over 392,000 followers on Instagram and has nine music videos with over a million views on YouTube, including Okongwu’s favorite “Red Light,” which features YBN Almighty Jay and DDG.
While Atlanta Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk may be well-aware of Okongwu’s on-the-court success at Chino Hills, he joked with Atlanta media he might not be as knowledgeable on the details of the off-the-court social status that came with playing basketball at Chino Hills four years ago.
“To be clear, I don’t know ‘Red Light,’ so don’t ask me that,” Schlenk said before laughing.