Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Chris Obekpa is headed to St. John’s after visiting the campus Monday.
“Keeping my talent in the MECCA,” the 6-foot-9, 225-pound Our Savior New American forward Tweeted, along with the accompanying picture.
Obekpa, a native of Benue, Nigeria who averaged 12 points, 13 rebounds and 9 blocks last season, rounds out a strong recruiting class for head coach Steve Lavin that includes his Our Savior teammate, 6-3 wing Felix Balamou.
It also includes forwards JaKarr Sampson and Orlando Sanchez and guard Marco Bourgault, along with Texas A&M transfer Jamal Branch and Harvard transfer Max Hooper.
The Johnnies have a nicely balanced class that includes a point guard in Branch, a shooter in Bourgault, a wing scorer with athleticism and a high ceiling in Balamou and frontcourt scorers and defenders in Sampson, Obekpa and Sanchez.
“There’s a multitude of reasons why [he committed],” Our Savior assistant EricJaklitsch told SNY.tv by phone. “First of all, it’s an opportunity to play with one of his teammates from high school, Felix Balamou. The second thing is it’s a chance to play in the Big East Conference close to his adopted American home in New York and [there’s] the allure of playing at Madison Square Garden.
“Obviously, Coach Lavin’s track record of having pros in the league and having a certain amount of other guys on staff, too, that have worked in the NBA played a factor. And they play an uptempo system that will highlight the skills that he has.”
SNY.tv. reported early this month that St. John’s was now leading for Obekpa, who also considered Cincinnati before making his decision.
Earlier, he considered DePaul, Providence and UConn as well.
Because he committed after the late NCAA signing period, he will not sign a Letter of Intent but will instead sign a financial aid agreement
“I think he always likes to be sure on things and he always likes to take his time and make sure of what he wants to do,” Jaklitsch said.
In terms of his game, Jaklitsch said Obekpa is “an underrated passer who is actually a better offensive player than people give him credit for.”
“[Obekpa’s] gotta become more assertive offensively,” New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski told SNY.tv. “Hes gotta learn how to involve himself in the game offensively.
“But he’s a factor defensively and on the boards. He’s gotta get stronger on the boards and build up his stamina. He can really be a factor for [St. John’s]. He’s a legitimate shot-blocker, he changes the game.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.