St. John’s transfer Chris Obekpa has committed to UNLV. He announced the news on Instagram, and a source confirmed to NBCSports.com that this was, in fact, a commitment:
Obekpa is one of the nation’s premier shot-blockers, averaging 3.1 blocks to go along with 7.0 boards as a junior with the Johnnies. He left the program in June, and the cause was, reportedly, a rift between Obekpa and the new coaching staff. The player did not like the stricter rules the new regime was implementing.
The 6-foot-9 native of Nigeria will have to sit the 2015-16 season and will have one season of eligibility remaining in 2016-17.
After playing three seasons at St. John’s, center Chris Obekpa made the decision last month to transfer for his final season of eligibility. A solid contributor on the defensive end of the floor, Obekpa had a tumultuous junior season which ended with his being declared ineligible for the NCAA tournament after reportedly failing a drug test.
Thursday it was reported by CBSSports.com that the 6-foot-10 big man will visit Minnesota this weekend, with the Golden Gophers being one of four schools he’s considering. Minnesota doesn’t lack for front court options who would have eligibility remaining in 2016-17, with Joey King being their lone senior, but Obekpa would add more depth (and defensive ability) to that group.
According to SNY.tv, Alabama, Arizona State and NC State are also being considered by Obekpa. Each of those schools has at least one scholarship remaining, with the Wolfpack having three available scholarships in the aftermath of Kyle Washington’s transfer to Cincinnati and Trevor Lacey’s decision to turn pro.
Regardless of where Obekpa lands he’ll have to sit out the 2015-16 season, and that could ultimately benefit him on the offensive end of the floor. While he was a player teams had to account for as a defender while at St. John’s, the offensive skill set remained a work in progress throughout his time in Queens.
The first season of the Chris Mullin era at St. John’s will be an interesting one, not only due to the fact that a program legend is returning to campus for his first head coaching job but also because of how much was lost from last year’s NCAA tournament team. Three of their top four scorers ran out of eligibility and the fourth, point guard Rysheed Jordan, had academic issues that eventually led to him pursuing professional basketball.
Wednesday afternoon St. John’s announced that another player from last season’s team will be leaving the program. Center Chris Obekpa, a solid defender who struggled to become a consistent option on the offensive end of the floor, will transfer.
Obekpa, who averaged 5.8 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game last season, will have one season left to play after sitting out the 2015-15 campaign at whichever program his chooses.
“It was a great three years of growing here at St. John’s. I am forever grateful for the friends and family I have met during my time here,” Obekpa said in the release. “Much gratitude goes out to my coaches, teammates, professors and administrators for all of their love and support over the past three years.”
Obekpa’s request to be released from his scholarship last spring was granted by then-head coach Steve Lavin, with the Our Savior New American (Centereach, New York) product ultimately deciding to return to St. John’s for his junior season. The departure of the 6-foot-10 center means that St. John’s will have to account for the loss of its top six scorers from 2014-15.
In the interior the Red Storm return Amir Alibegovic and Christian Jones, with additions Yankuba Sims and Darien Williams (junior college transfer) joining the rotation. Tennessee transfer Tariq Owens will have to sit out the 2015-16 season, meaning that a team that didn’t have much depth to begin with is in an even tougher situation unless they can find a late addition or two this summer.