Recruiting update: Chris Obekpa rumored to be leaning towards St. John's

Could we be witnessing a complete 180-degree turn?

As mentioned via Twitter on Thursday evening by JohnnyJungle.com owner/operator Dave Krupinski, heralded recruit Chris Obekpa may be leaning towards committing to St. John's. It has been widely believed that the Our Savior New American (NY) forward had been close to joining the Cincinnati Bearcats, but that may be cooling.

Here's Steve Lavin, whose staff has developed a 'road warrior' persona with the fast-paced recruiting of the past 24 months, gaining steam - once again. His St. John's Red Storm are young and geared for a breakout. The coach, who spent the majority of last season battling and recovering from prostate cancer surgery, has taken on the role to decipher this large Queens jigsaw.

With Chris Obekpa, Lavin may finally be positioning his final piece into place.

More below the fold.

When you look at the expected roster of the 2012-13 Red Storm, you see variety. Across the board, there is talent, quickness, athleticism, and yes even some experience (!). The guard play is potent and the forwards are a mismatch's dream. But there is one thing missing.

Size. Rebounding. Blocked shots.

No, Johnnies fans are not expecting the next Hakeem Olajuwon or even Anthony Davis. They just don't want the rebounded statistics to be so heavily weighted to one side - the wrong side. They can't stand St. John's being out-rebounded by 12 against Georgetown or, god forbid, by 15 against Northeastern. They're tired of the self-admitted and unavoidable 'liability.'

Lavin's last piece of what he called a three-year trail to sustained success is an interior presence, someone who provides the three things we just mentioned. Obekpa, who stands 6-foot-8 and 215 pounds, isn't the biggest player to ever be recruited by Big East schools. But he is known for his ability to get a hand on shot attempts and make a difference defensively.

Obekpa visited St. John's in late March with current Red Storm commit JaKarr Sampson. Soon after, it was reported that Mick Cronin and the Bearcats had overwhelmingly become his top choice. He had also been courted by Oregon, Providence, UConn, and DePaul. Two months later, things have shifted.

Jon Rothstein, a trusted college basketball insider of CBS Sports and WFAN, recently mentioned that St. John's has "re-emerged in the Chris Obekpa sweepstakes" and that the Red Storm still have a "legitimate shot" at landing the big man. On Thursday evening, Rothstein told a source close to Rumble in the Garden that he still believes Cincinnati is the favorite, but St. John's "has a heartbeat."

That sure sounds different from the murmurs that had been spreading in recent weeks. It seemed as if the Obekpa-Cincinnati relationship was a done deal and that uniforms could already be put into production.

"[I am] hearing Chris Obekpa is a very strong lean to St. John's," Krupinski mentioned. "No date [is] set for [an] announcement but hearing [a] commitment to Storm is imminent." The New York Post's Zach Braziller also confirmed the report.

Clearly, this continues to be entirely speculation as Obekpa's decision date is still unknown. However, St. John's apparent rejuvenation in the recruitment of such a strong shot blocker is encouraging and exciting for its fans.

The Rumble will have more on this story as information develops.

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