Friday, March 23, 2012

The Potential Exodus of Oriakhi

Alex Oriakhi has put in his papers to transfer. So what does that mean to UConn heading forward? Well for starters it does not mean that Oriakhi will not be wearing the Huskies uniform next year. It just means that he is preparing himself for the possibility of not doing so. While his three previous years have been a roller coaster from an underwhelming freshman year, to a sophomore year that saw him make key plays in key moments on their way to a National Championship, to a junior year with inconsistent play and spotty minutes. Most of the information coming out has come from Oriakhi’s father, who as anyone familiar with the local press, has been outspoken about Calhoun’s style of coaching. Unfortunately this has become slightly embarrassing, like watching parents berate the coach or an official at a little league game. While Calhoun can be harsh, outspoken, and sometimes brash, he has reached the pinnacle of his profession that few have ever done in any profession and that gives him a certain credence in the way that he coaches and the style that he does it with.

Oriakhi is at a crossroads of his basketball career and there has to be a bit of pressure on him that whatever happens next season, he has to produce and show scouts a much better product if he wants the chance to play professionally. The downside is that he is an undersized center and ask Jeff Adrien how hard it is to break into the NBA with that label on you. Oriakhi is going to need to develop three major aspects to his game to have a chance at making it at the next level, a 15-foot jumper, find a consistent post move, and do a much better job on the boards. If he hasn’t found one of those already, it is a mountainous uphill climb to do it in your senior year. Is it impossible? No, but it is unlikely.

A lot of his frustration this season had to do with coming off the bench while a freshman Andre Drummond got the start. He felt disrespected, but instead of that motivating him to showing everyone wrong, it plagued his season with inconsistent play. While he did have a great run in the NCAA tournament, no one points out the major contribution of Charles Okwandu down the stretch of that season, even outplaying Oriakhi in every other game. The merit of starting should be on performance not on reputation and as the season went on it was apparent that Drummond was a far better player. That shouldn’t be a knock on Oriakhi, just look at the NBA mock drafts.

So if Oriakhi leaves where does that leave UConn’s front court? On shaky ground. Besides if Oriakhi leaves then the NCAA has already ruled UConn’s postseason over before they even start the year. So it would be a good grooming year for Wolf and Bradley. And for fans there is nothing greater then the unknown, especially since the known is inconsistent and the other is a no brainer to test the NBA draft waters and won't be here. The only sad thing is that this has turned into a bit of a circus. This should be about a kid developing and growing into a good basketball player and a man, but it has digressed into a silly ‘I broke up with you first’ squabble between player, family and fans. Either way, Oriakhi should find a place, either here or with another team, that he feels comfortable and gives him the best chance to pursue his dream. That is the least that UConn fans should want from someone who has given his precious collegiate eligibility to help stabilize an institution that is going through one of its toughest times in its storied history. For that we should all say, thanks and wish the best for him.


Ryan said...

I disagree. If Oriakhi leaves and Drummond stays this leaves Roscoe the ability to play where he is most comfortable and effective, at the four. Personally I think Roscoe has proven himself more as a big man -in terms of rebounds, jumpers, and even defense- then Alex. Substitute Olander in for Roscoe and take a few shaky minutes from Bradley to let Drummond rest, and the Huskies still look okay. That is, if all these people stay.

David Gillett said...

It is highly unlikely for Drummond to return, not with his projected lottery slot. Roscoe does play the four better but he is more of a three. He doesn't have a post game which is vital for a four. Olander is a four that can slide into the five. That leaves some big questions at the five if Oriakhi leaves. It will hinge on Wolf who hasn't had enough game tape to see what there is and Bradley who hasn't been able to show anything and has to have patience with his game for there has to be a bit of rust.