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.
Uncommitted Obekpa Wins Player of the Year at IS8; Johnnies Now Considered The Favorite
Chris Obekpa may not have selected a college yet, but he continues to build an impressive resume in the final days of his high school career.
The 6-foot-9 shot-blocking sensation from Our Savior New American was named Player of the Year at IS8 after helping Team Flight win the IS8 Nike Spring Classic championship Saturday over the Rens Juniors, 92-83 in overtime.
Uncommitted Pathways junior Jordan Washington was named MVP of the final after posting 33 points and 15 rebounds for Team Flight. He had 15 points and 11 rebounds in a 94-68 semifinal victory over the Juice All-Stars.
Obekpa tallied 15 points, 17 rebounds and 7 blocks in the semis and then tired somewhat before notching 4 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks in the final.
“He really was a factor in the first game,” longtime New York recruiting expert Tom Konchalski told SNY.tv. “He changes the game defensively. He’s one of the best shot-blockers around.”
Obekpa’s handlers at Our Savior continue not to make Obekpa available for interviews and have been silent themselves, so it is difficult to get an accurate read on his thoughts regarding college.
Still, the conventional wisdom now is that St. John’s has re-emerged as a front-runner ahead of Cincinnati, perhaps in part because of the recent nightclub incident related to several Bearcats.
St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin is unable to comment on prospective student-athletes, but Tweeted on Saturday: “Still in the hunt for some outstanding 2012 prospects. Six now signed in this class with 2 remaining scholarships if we elect to use them!”
He also Tweeted: “Pleased Johnnies secured a stellar incoming class to join a strong returning nucleus. Looking forward to the 2012-13 season. Hammer to Rock.”
St. John’s has already locked up Obekpa’s teammate, Felix Balamou, a 6-3 wing and Konchalski believes that could help them eventually land Obekpa.
“They’re good friends,” he said. “That certainly helps St. John’s.”
Even if they don’t ultimately land Obekpa, who also lists Providence, DePaul, Oregon and UConn, Konchalski believes Balamou can be a factor for the Johnnies going forward.
He had 19 points and 3 rebounds in the semifinal and 12 points in the final after succumbing to an injury, and was named First-Team All-IS8.
“Every time out he gets better,” Konchalski said of Balamou. “He’s always been an extraterrestrial athlete. He jumps like a grasshooper off two feet.
“In the past he was a very poor shooter, but he’s improved that. He doesn’t have much of a 3-point shot, but he’s a good mid-range shooter. He gets great elevation.”
Asked what his upside was, Konchalski said: “I think eventually he can be very good. A year ago he was a low-major player. Two months ago, he was a mid-major player. Right now, he might be a high-major player.”
If Balamou continues to improve and the Johnnies also add Obekpa to a recruiting class that includes JaKarr Sampson, Orlando Sanchez, Marco Bourgault and possibly Darrick Wood, their class could be very strong indeed.
“[Obekpa’s] gotta become more assertive offensively,” Konchalski said. “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.”
Boston University-bound guard Maurice Watson had 9 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 5 turnovers for Team Flight in the semifinal and 19 points and 10 turnovers in the final…Leroy Fludd, who may prep next year after finishing up at Brooklyn Boys & Girls, had 19 points for Juice in the semis…Uncommitted 7-footer Jordan Dickerson, who visited Providence last week and heads to South Carolina Sunday, had 11 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks for Juice in the semis…Isaiah Whitehead, a 2014 wing from Lincoln who plays for Juice, injured his back in the semis…New Heights forfeited its semifinal to the Rens because three players had graduation….South Carolina commit Thaddeus Hall had 24 and 10 for the Rens in the final…Shamiek Sheppard had 16 and 9.
IS8 ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMPlayer of the Year: Chris Obekpa, Team Flight
Sportsmanship Award: Thaddeus Hall, Rens
MVP: Jordan Washington, Team Flight
Melvin Johnson, Panthers
Isaiah Cousins, Ben Gordon All-Stars
Chris Ortiz, Rens
Leroy Fludd, Juice All-Stars
Ibraham Toure, Rens
Felix Balamou, Team Flight
Isaiah Whitehead, Juice
Kavon Stewart, Playaz Juniors
Jimmy Hall, New Heights Seniors
Thaddeus Hall, Rens Juniors
Maurice Watson, Team Flight
Reggie Cameron, Playaz Juniors
Mike Young, Playaz Juniors
Laimonas Chetkevicius, Panthers
Rashad Andrews, New Heights Seniors
Brian Bernardi, New Heights Seniors
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
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.