With new head coach Chris Mullin at the helm and more accountability expected out of the members of his roster, rumors have been floating for weeks about the status of shot blocker and rising senior Chris Obekpa.
St. John's announced Wednesday afternoon in a statement that Obekpa is set to move on and will transfer to another program for his final year of eligibility. The 6'10" native of Nigeria will have to sit out the 2015-16 season.
"We respect Chris' decision and we wish him well in his future endeavors," Mullin's said in his statement.
"It was a great three years of growing here at St. John's," Obekpa said in a statement. "I am forever grateful for the friends and family I have met during my time here. Much gratitude goes out to my coaches, teammates, professors and administrators for all the love and support over the past three years."
The athletic center averaged 5.8 points per game, 7.0 rebounds and 3.1 blocks last year while playing a career high 27 minutes per game. During his freshman season, Obekpa was leading shot blocker in the country with four per game and currently holds the program's career single season block record with 133.
During his three years with the team, Obekpa was limited offensively and was often out of position for rebounds, but that never impacted his irreplaceable defensive presence. When the Johnnies' guards were beat off the dribble, Obekpa's length and knack for blocking shots was a problem for opponents that were strong at finishing around the rim.
The big man also had some issues off the court as he was suspended for two weeks on Selection Sunday and missed the Johnnies opening round match-up in the NCAA Tournament against San Diego State. Multiple outlets reported that the suspension was from a failed drug test. He also was ejected twice during the 2015 season, once for two technical fouls and a second time for elbowing Butler's Tyle Wideman in the head.
Following the 2013-14 season, the school elected to announce his decision to transfer before Obekpa changed his course and returned to the Red Storm program two weeks later.
Moving forward, this is a fresh start for Mullin and the coaching staff as there will be a brand new starting five next season (only three true returnees) and three scholarships still remain in order to add more talent (Maverick Rowan?).
Most importantly, Mullin will have different expectations for his players on and off the court and even though this year is shifting more and more towards a rebuilding season, the program seems headed in the right direction.