Chris Obekpa: improvement, lessons from Creighton

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Sophomore Chris Obekpa became a sensation on both the campus and national landscape because of his great defense. In his first collegiate game against Detroit, he set a St. John's record with eight blocks.

Less than one month later, on December 8, 2012, he recorded a new school record 11 blocks in a game against Fordham, one shy of the Big East Conference record.

He led the NCAA Division I last year in blocked shots as a freshman, showing great timing and awareness on defense.

But this year started off by getting suspended for the Tip-Off event and the two exhibition games at the beginning of the year due to violation of team rules. During the November and December stretch of the season the 6'9' Nigerian found himself playing his normal role, playing 20-30 minutes. When the calendar turned to conference play in January his minutes decreased because of  God`sGift Achiuwa's improved play.  He also got diagnosed with food poisoning which limited his time.

Not only was his time limited, but he wasn't effective; before the January 28th game against Creighton he had three straight games of being scoreless. In that stretch, he averaged one block per game, 2.5 rebounds... and four fouls in 12 minutes per contest.

It has been an up and down season where he has seen fewer minutes. But the season could be turning around for the man nicknamed Oblockpa.

Over the last three games something has gotten into Obekpa.  He has shown signs of last year that made him so great, and then some more.  The one thing missing from his game were offensive touches. But over the last the two weeks he has shown a lot of potential in that area. He is much better at finishing around the rim, and much more confident doing it than last year.

His totals of 11, 7 and 10 points in the last three games match or easily trump the scoreless streak - and his previous season high of seven points.

"He's worked on it and we have seen the improvement. When he gets the ball he has more of an aggressive mindset," said head coach Steve Lavin.

Obekpa admitted today that his season still isn't where it wants to be. "[I'm] Not yet [having a good season)]. I can always get better. Lav and players keep telling me to be more aggressive."

Going into a very crucial game against Creighton that could be a big "resume" game, Obekpa's mindset seems much more improved.

If you don't remember, Obekpa was guarding Doug McDermott on when hit the game winning three pointer to kill St. John's comeback attempt. D`Angelo Harrison's man set a pick on Obekpa and the communication between the defenders got lost.

Obekpa repeatedly said it was his fault, and even took it a step further. "Yeah it (the final play) bothers me. It's a game winner, I keep watching it to make sure it never happens again," Obekpa stated Friday. Obekpa was out of his element in that play, guarding the perimeter, but still takes responsibility.

St. John's hope to make a run to play in March will be enhanced by Chris Obekpa's expected defensive intimidation; an addition of a newly developed offensive game would go a long way to helping to keep him on the floor and giving the Red Storm a new kind of threat for opponents to deal with down low.

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