Celtics Working Out Possible Sleeper Prospect, NAIA All-American: Report

Brad Stevens Celtics

Getty Brad Stevens, then-coach of the Boston Celtics, at a press conference in 2019.

Although Beantown basketball fans have been knee-deep in discussion concerning the Boston Celtics‘ head coaching search, new team president Brad Stevens certainly has other fish to fry as well. Specifically, preparing for the 2021 NBA Draft, which will take place on Thursday, July 29.

To that end, the team will officially begin the process this week with pre-draft workouts, which will once again be organized by assistant general manager Austin Ainge.

In addition to auditioning prospects for their first-round selection at No. 16 overall, Stevens, Ainge and the rest of the Celtics brain trust will be doing their due diligence for potential pick-ups with their second-round choice.

And, given the team’s tremendous cap crunch, finding a player at No. 45 overall who can actually challenge for a roster spot should be a big-time consideration for Boston’s decision-makers.

Despite having spent his collegiate career in the NAIA ranks, one big man who will reportedly work out with the Celtics this week may fit the bill.

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Grenham: Celtics Working Out E.J. Onu

On Tuesday, Forbes’ Chris Grenham reported via Twitter that the Celtics will be working out Shawnee State big man E.J. Onu this week. Onu is a two-time NAIA All-American who Grenham believes has a level of athletic ability that will intrigue NBA front offices.

He further noted that Onu has elite-level measurables; the four-year collegiate reportedly checks in at 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-6 wingspan.

As tracked by RealGM, Onu averaged 16.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per contest last season. He also connected on 57.3% of his field-goal attempts overall and 40% of his nearly four three-point attempts per game.

Given his status as a non-Division I player, his audition with the Celtics could be crucial in determining his ability (or lack thereof) to thrive against NBA-level competition. However, his numbers, physical profile and the fact that he led his club to an NAIA national championship make for an intriguing resume.

If he stays in the draft, he could end up being a second-round steal or undrafted diamond in the rough for a team like the Celtics.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Onu is one of a litany of seniors who were on the NBA’s early entry list. Under normal circumstances, his college career would have been over after four years. However, he and others like him were granted an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, he’ll now have an opportunity to get feedback from NBA teams before deciding on his next move.

One thing seems certain, though — his career at Shawnee State is likely over. As reported by ESPN in April, Onu will explore the transfer market while evaluating how he will use his extra year.

“I am keeping my eligibility open because coming back to college could be a great tool to play at the D1 level and gain experience if the NBA draft didn’t work out in my favor,” he said at the time.

“If I return to school, I’m looking for a team in which I can be myself and play how I play and win games.”


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