Russ Smith, Chris Obekpa

Chris Obekpa’s ankle health takes fortunate turn

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St. John’s announced on Monday that Chris Obekpa, the Big East school’s sui generis shot blocker, would miss ten to fourteen days with an ankle injury. The news was seen as having the potential to derail the Red Storm’s NCAA tournament hopes — since the team lost their initial five conference games, SJU has won eight of their last nine and have entered the postseason discussion.

Steve Lavin’s team, though, handily beat Butler earlier this week, but with a season-defining match-up with Villanova looming, it was unclear whether Obekpa would rush back on to the court. Lavin stoked the discussion this afternoon, telling reporters the sophomore center lightly worked out and is feeling “better” — he also mentioned that possibility Obekpa might play against the Wildcats.

Lavin frequently thinks out loud, so while the pronouncement seems like it has merit, it would be very shocking if the center actually takes the court. St. John’s is one of the rare Big East teams that perfectly matches up with Villanova, and Daniel Ochefu, who Obekpa would likely defend, can also be covered by God’sgift Achiuwa (Orlando Sanchez might have been an option, but the forward will miss the game to be with his wife, who recently gave birth to the couple’s first child). However, the fact that Lavin felt the need to utter this tidbit in the presence of reporters just underlines the significance of Saturday’s contest. Obekpa’s shot-blocking is an important, but not crucial, piece of the St. John’s defense, but if the Johnnies don’t win, an NCAA bid will likely skip the Queens-based school for the third straight season. Rather than allow Jay Wright the knowledge Obekpa will definitely not play, Lavin is hoping Villanova at least plans for Obekpa and his 16.5 percent block rate.

VIDEO: Utah Valley’s Mark Pope dances, lip syncs with daughters

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New Utah Valley head coach Mark Pope made quite an impression on fans at the team’s Midnight Madness celebration last night. That’s because Pope did a dance and lip sync routine with his four daughters that turned out to be pretty impressive.

The former BYU assistant looks to be the leader in the clubhouse for best coach dance so far this preseason. We’ll see if any other coaches pull out elaborate routines at madness celebrations the next few weeks.

UConn commit tears ACL for second time

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UConn commit Juwan Durham, a four-star big man in the Class of 2016, has torn the ACL in his right knee for the second time in seven months. The Florida native committed to the Huskies and head coach Kevin Ollie back in September. The 6-foot-9 forward is regarded as the No. 31 overall prospect in the national Class of 2016, so he can really be a force when he’s healthy.

In a report from’s Bob Putnam, UConn was notified of the injury immediately and there is no change in plans with the commitment. The Huskies also own commitments from four-star point guard Alterique Gilbert and three-star power forward Mamadou Diarra in the Class of 2016. Having Diarra, an active, rim-protecting presence, helps with Durham’s recovery, since he can provide some more front court depth.

If Durham rehabs back to full speed, UConn has a very talented power forward who was just hitting his stride in the Florida state playoffs last February. UConn has a nice class so far with this group, especially if Durham can recover, With a year to recover until next season, Durham can hopefully play during his freshman season in 2016.