Catching Up With Josh Okogie
Our Kyle Ratke was able to chat with rookie Josh Okogie after he stood out at the NBA Transition Program, which is meant to help rookies adjust to the NBA life. Okogie won the Rookie Transition MVP award. MVP was determined by a combination of points accumulated through various competitions during the week and the recommendations of senior staff and the group doctor. It was also based on leadership, participation, engagement, and overall embodiment of the RTP theme, “BeAPRO”.
KR: Wolves fans will be happy to hear from you. How’s your offseason been?
JO: My offseason’s been great. Very eventful. Just trying to work out and see what I can bring to the team and be the best that I can be.
KR: You won the MVP at the Rookie Transition Program. What exactly goes on there for rookies? What are you learning learning and taking away with your draft class?
JO: You learn a lot about the dangers of the league on the court and off the court, whether that be drug abuse, domestic violence. And then simply how do you deal with getting on the court, or if you don’t get on the court. The rookie wall, there’s so much traveling. All of that. I thought it was a great experience. You kind of learn about each other, and you’re learning from veterans who are still playing and guys who have already retired. You get different perspectives from guys who are new, guys who have been in the league for 15 years and guys who have retired. You get all of this information and have a better idea of how to handle these different kinds of things.
KR: How did you separate yourself from others to win the MVP?
JO: Each person was put in a group. They had different games we would play. We had a class on how to dress professionally – when to dress nice and when to dress casually. We had a dressing fashion game where you could kind of see who can best put an outfit together that corresponds best for a certain event.
Each day, we had to make a video that kind of reflected on what we learned the previous day. Say we learned about drug abuse, how to build against that, how to build against domestic violence. And we’d make a video to explain all of that. We can get really creative.
We did other things. Obviously the small discussions were important. We had little seminars and some of us gave speeches. You’d talk about what you’ve learned and you’d learn from the other groups and other stations. How to deal with refs? How to deal with police? How to deal with family or friends asking for things and you want to say no?
There were a lot of opportunities for leadership as far as who will lead discussions, who’s volunteering. Being an example and being engaged.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images
KR: Obviously going into the draft, it’s basketball, basketball, basketball. You go to Summer League and it’s the same thing. We’ve talked to other rookies about this, too, but with some of the things that are discussed during the Rookie Transition Program, there are so many other things that go into the business. You’re making a lot more money. There are people who might not have your best interest. The travel. There are just other things you have to worry about. Did you know that there were this many things that you needed to be aware of?
JO: I knew there were things off the court that I had to deal with. Obviously going into the NBA, there’s a lot of things that were off the court that I had to spend time on. I didn’t know to the extent, and I think the Rookie Transition Program did a really good job of highlighting those points and telling us how severe some of these things can be. There’s a lot of things that we take for granted that we really don’t pay attention to. I didn’t know how big mental wellness is. Obviously the Rookie Transition Program did a great job of that. These are things I’ve gotta watch out for and these are the things that are going to prevent me getting into situations that could lead me in the wrong direction and potentially harm my career.
KR: As far as Summer League went, I can assure you, you made plenty of fans from the way you played. The intensity, especially defensively, was recognized. What kind of feedback have you gotten from that performance?
JO: It’s great. Anytime I can bring smiles to the fans of Minnesota. I know last year, we brought a winning culture and I think that was the first year in many years we had a winning team. I want to help sustain that. I don’t want it to be a drop off. Over the course of a span of time, rosters may change, but as long as I’m here, I want to bring that stability to the Timberwolves program, whether I’m on the bench cheering my teammates on or whether it’s playing 40 minutes, wherever I’m at on the floor. Whether I’m playing or not, I want Timberwolves fans to know I’m doing everything in my power to keep that winning mentality.
KR: You’ve been with Keita Bates-Diop throughout the whole process. You both were slotted to go at similar spots in the draft. In Summer League you both impressed everybody. After the draft and after Summer League, a lot of people were saying the Wolves were winners in the draft given how you guys performed. What’s your bond like with Keita and having someone to go through this all with?
JO: Even going to all of these things, you see other players and there are a lot of players who are the only ones drafted from their team. It’s hard being a rookie. You have to do more than the average player. Keita’s a great guy. When you got a guy like Keita sitting next to you, you feel good. He’s a great player and pushes me to work hard. Like you said, we were slotted to go in the same spot, but it’s not really where you start. At the end of the day, I’d rather be the 60th pick of the draft and have a 15-year career than be the first pick and be done after my rookie contract. It’s just what Keita makes of it. The way he plays and the way he is, I don’t think it’s going to be hard for him to make that adjustment and be the player everybody knows he can be.
KR: Training camp is coming up. It probably feels like you’ve been waiting forever. What are some of the things you’re looking forward to in training camp and to start the season?
JO: Getting acclimated to the culture. I know I’ve been practicing with Summer League and working out with the team, but going there with Coach Thibodeau. Meeting the teammates and building that chemistry. Heading into training camp, trying to get together and mingle and start to form that bond.