KZ Okpala

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KZ Okpala
Kezie Okpala (cropped).jpg
Okpala in December 2017
No. 4 – Miami Heat
PositionSmall forward / Power forward
LeagueNBA
Personal information
Born (1999-04-28) April 28, 1999 (age 20)
Orange County, California
NationalityAmerican
Listed height6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)
Listed weight210 lb (95 kg)
Career information
High schoolEsperanza (Anaheim, California)
CollegeStanford (2017–2019)
NBA draft2019 / Round: 2 / Pick: 32nd overall
Selected by the Phoenix Suns
Playing career2019–present
Career history
2019–presentMiami Heat
Career highlights and awards
Stats at NBA.com
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com

Chikezie "KZ" Okpala[1] (born April 28, 1999) is an American professional basketball player for the Miami Heat of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played college basketball for the Stanford Cardinal.

Early life[edit]

Okpala was born to Nigerian parents Martin and Mary Okpala, who settled Orange County, California before his birth.[2] He began playing basketball at age 4 but did not join a youth league because he found them unruly.[1] Okpala grew up playing the game against adults at fitness clubs and parks.[3] When he was in fourth grade, his family moved from Fresno to Yorba Linda, California, and he reached out to a local club team.[1] Okpala also played football and baseball in his childhood before focusing on basketball by age 11.[2]

High school career[edit]

Okpala attended Esperanza High School in Anaheim, California. He grew from 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) to 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) during his four years playing high school basketball.[4] Okpala joined the starting lineup as a sophomore.[5] On January 16, 2015, during that season, he made a buzzer-beating three-pointer to defeat El Dorado High School.[6] As a junior, Okpala averaged 23 points and 8 rebounds per game to lead Esperanza to a conference title and win Crestview League Player of the Year honors. His most notable moment in that year was when Kz Okpala dunked on Orange High’s, Trevor Hooks, embarassing him from all existence. [5]

In his senior season, he improved to 30 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game.[4] On November 25, 2016, Okpala tallied 41 points in a 76–59 win over Spartanburg Day School at the Tournament of Champions.[7] He scored a career-high 46 points against Crossroads School, which set a school record.[4][8] On March 26, 2017, Okpala led Esperanza to its first California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division II championship, scoring 22 points versus Moreau Catholic High School.[9] He was named Crestview League Player of the Year and played at the Ballislife All-American Game.[10]

Okpala was a consensus four-star recruit and one of the top high school players in California.[11][12] He received an offer from Stanford in July 2016, shortly before committing there.[11][13]

College career[edit]

Okpala missed his first 11 games of his freshman season at Stanford because of academic ineligibility.[14] On December 21, 2017, after being cleared to play, he debuted with 6 points in 28 minutes against Kansas.[15][16] On March 3, 2018, Okpala recorded his first double-double, tallying 18 points and 10 rebounds in an 84–83 win over Arizona State.[17] He scored a season-high 23 points on March 8, in an 88–77 loss to UCLA.[18] As a freshman, Okpala averaged 10 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game.[4]

On November 6, 2018, he made his sophomore debut with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists in a 96–74 win over Seattle.[19] Six days later, Okpala earned Pac-12 Conference player of the week recognition.[20] On January 9, 2019, he had another strong performance, erupting for 29 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists against Arizona.[21]

At the conclusion of his sophomore season, Okpala announced his intention to forgo his final two seasons of collegiate eligibility and declare for the 2019 NBA Draft.[22]

Professional career[edit]

Okpala was drafted by the Phoenix Suns with the 32nd overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft but was soon after traded to the Miami Heat.[23]

Career statistics[edit]

Legend
  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high

College[edit]

Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
2017–18 Stanford 23 21 28.5 .393 .226 .679 3.7 1.8 1.0 .6 10.0
2018–19 Stanford 29 29 32.7 .465 .375 .671 5.7 2.0 1.0 .5 16.9
Career 52 50 30.8 .440 .336 .674 4.8 1.9 1.0 .5 13.9

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c FitzGerald, Tom (February 8, 2018). "Late-bloomer KZ Okpala is growing his game at Stanford". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Fryer, Steve (April 4, 2017). "Esperanza's Kezie Okpala is the Register's 2016-17 boys basketball player of the year". Orange County Register. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  3. ^ Sondheimer, Eric (January 19, 2017). "On high schools: Late bloomer KZ Okpala of Esperanza has a rosy future". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d "KZ Okpala". Stanford University. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Fryer, Steve (November 27, 2016). "Esperanza's Okpala ready to lead". Orange County Register. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  6. ^ Connolly, Kenny (January 16, 2015). "Okpala's shot gives Esperanza dramatic win". Orange County Register. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  7. ^ Regan, Brett (November 25, 2016). "Kezie Okpala's Impressive 41 Outshines Zion Williamson". FloHoops. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  8. ^ Sondheimer, Eric (March 28, 2017). "The all-Los Angeles Times boys' basketball team for 2017". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  9. ^ "Esperanza boys capture state Division II basketball title". Orange County Register. March 26, 2017. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  10. ^ "Kezie Okpala". Ballislife All-American Game. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  11. ^ a b "Kezie Okpala, 2017 Small forward". Rivals. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  12. ^ "KZ Okpala, Esperanza, Small Forward". 247Sports. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  13. ^ Drukarev, Andy (August 1, 2016). "Okpala receives Stanford offer, plans trip". Rivals. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  14. ^ Borzello, Jeff (November 10, 2017). "Stanford freshman forward Kezie Okpala to sit out due to academics". ESPN. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  15. ^ Shook, Nick (December 21, 2017). "Highly touted freshman Kezie Okpala cleared to play for Stanford". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  16. ^ "Dec 21, 2017 - Stanford 54 at Kansas 75". RealGM. December 21, 2017. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  17. ^ "No. 19 Arizona pulls away late to beat California". Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2018. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  18. ^ "Mar 8, 2018 - Stanford 77 at UCLA 88". RealGM. March 8, 2018. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  19. ^ FitzGerald, Tom (November 6, 2018). "KZ Okpala hits career-high 29 points as Stanford rips Seattle in opener". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  20. ^ "Okpala Honored". Stanford University. November 12, 2018. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  21. ^ Eymer, Rick (January 9, 2019). "A great effort goes unrewarded for Stanford men's hoops". Palo Alto Weekly. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  22. ^ "Stanford's Okpala enters draft to chase 'dream'". ESPN. April 11, 2019.
  23. ^ "HEAT Acquire The Draft Rights To KZ Okpala". NBA.com. July 6, 2019.

External links[edit]