November 8, 2012

Big-Time Expectations for Big Man Obekpa

He's keeping St. John's big men on their toes in practice. He's got St. John's guards looking forward to feeding the post for alley-oops in games.

On both ends of the floor, 6-foot-9, 223-pound freshman forward/center Chris Obekpa singlehandedly enhanced the power of the Red Storm frontline. His renowned, big-handed shot-blocking, which earned him the nickname "Game Changer," is expected to prevent high-percentage scoring from opposing bigs and penetrating guards.

What made a player like Obekpa so attractive to scouts around the nation was his unmatched timing when blocking shots. He had the ability to keep up with the up-and-down, lateral movements of his opponent in the paint, while being quick, yet patient, enough to elevate in time to reject a shot to the basket.

"It's a God-given talent, and I'm using it well," Obekpa told in the spring, days before committing to the Johnnies.

Now, St. John's big men, like 6-foot-8, 233-pound senior God's gift Achiuwa, view playing with an athlete like Obekpa as a "learning experience." Fellow freshman big, 6-foot-8, 204-pound JaKarr Sampson enjoys practicing against the long and strong Obekpa.

"We help each other out," said Sampson. "I have to learn how to change my shot, get off over him, and he has to learn how to play against players, like me, who's athletic, that are going to challenge him. It's a challenge every day."

The St. John's backcourt is anxious to play a game with a player like Obekpa in the frontcourt, mentioning that it makes their job a lot easier.

"We have a shot-blocker in the back, now," said sophomore guard D'Angelo Harrison of Obekpa. "JaKarr Sampson, Orlando Sanchez, Chris Obekpa - having them helps because we were more lean in the frontcourt [last season]."

"Chris Obekpa - the young kid blocks everything!" said sophomore swingman Sir'Dominic Pointer, the team's de facto energy guy. "He's a really smart kid for his age. His timing is impeccable. Just knowing you have him behind you, if you get beat a little bit when sticking with your man, you know he's going to get it."

Though there is much anticipation and high expectation regarding the type of lift Obekpa will give the Red Storm, the Nigerian-native, who played high school basketball at Our Savior New American (Centereach, N.Y.), is taking everything in stride.

"It's different from high school. More running. The pace is different, but it's good," said Obekpa. "We're working hard. Hopefully, it'll pays off when the season starts."

Also mentioning his like for the diversity on campus, Obekpa said his favorite thing about St. John's is the basketball.

"We're scrimmaging against ourselves. The refs come in, just like a real game. We're playing full pace, challenge each other. It helps us grow individually and we get used to ourselves," said Obekpa of practice sessions. "If we give 100 percent, keep going 100 percent, by the time we go against our opponents, it shouldn't be that hard for us."

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