Taking a break from drills and fundamentals Monday afternoon, Daniel Oturu let the kids have a little fun at his inaugural basketball camp at Cretin-Derham Hall.
As a rookie with the Los Angeles Clippers last season, Oturu played mostly in the paint, but he challenged the campers to put his ball-handling skills to the test. They had to swarm him to poke the ball away.
"The most important thing I want them to understand is having fun," Oturu said. "As long as they're having fun, I'm having fun, too."
Not long ago, the former Gophers standout was in their shoes, falling in love with the game at youth camps. Eventually hard work helped him achieve his goals of playing in college and in the NBA.
Along with aspirations of expanding his camp in the Twin Cities, Oturu looks forward to returning to the Clippers soon to play the NBA summer league. Since leaving the Gophers after an All-America sophomore season in 2019-20, Oturu has spent more time learning in practice than games.
"It was a really big learning experience for me, trying to learn the NBA game," Oturu said. "Getting adjusted to the level of intensity every game brings."
Former Gophers guard Amir Coffey bounced back and forth from the NBA G League as a Clippers rookie the previous year, but Oturu was primarily with the main squad, especially after being sidelined early with a quad injury.
In 30 games last season, he averaged 1.8 points and 1.6 rebounds in 5.4 minutes, but his season-high was 13 points and 12 rebounds in the regular-season finale vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder. Oturu also saw limited action in eight playoff games for the Clippers, who lost in the Western Conference Finals.
"I didn't get much playing time, but I felt like I learned just as much from sitting there and watching how great players [Paul George and Kawhi Leonard] approach each game," he said. "I just want to continue to get better as a player and learn more about the game. I just want to give my best effort every day."
Oturu ended the Gophers' draft drought at 16 years when he was picked No. 33 overall in the NBA draft last November. Being among six Minnesotans drafted the last two years gives Oturu even more pride about the hoops talent in his home state.
"We got real talent here," Oturu said. "We just need to continue to grow that talent and keep them in the state. I'm excited seeing the day all of the dreams for these guys come to fruition."
The Gophers look almost entirely different from when Oturu wore maroon and gold two seasons ago, but he thinks highly of new coach Ben Johnson, who recruited him in high school as a U assistant.
"It's a little different, but I think Ben is the guy for the job," Oturu said. "He's going to do his best to be as successful as possible. He's a great dude. That's the kind of guy you want in charge of your program. I'm excited for him and the U to see what they're going to do."
Nearly a hundred players from first through eighth grade will attend Oturu's camp through Friday at his former high school. Among volunteers helping are Cretin-Derham Hall senior guard Tre Holloman, Holloman's mother, Crystal Flint, and ex-Hopkins and Michigan State player Nia Hollie.
"Just being able to experience having my first camp is awesome and exciting," Oturu said. "It's a big blessing. Hopefully, I can continue to build and grow from this and each year we can get more kids."