Connecticut has released Alex Oriakhi from his scholarship which means that he's free to play basketball pretty much anywhere but the Big East next season. This assumes that the NCAA doesn't reverse its ruling and the Huskies remain ineligible for the 2013 NCAA Tournament. (Should UConn be allowed to play, however, Oriakhi would have to sit out a year should he transfer to another Division I program.)
Now everyone wants to know where Oriakhi will play. The list is long and varied and thanks to North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall's tweet, we can add another school in the mix: the Tar Heels.
The Connecticut News' Kevin Duffy retweeted the evidence.
It's innocuous enough but the Tar Heels will also have a gaping hole in the front court, too. Oriakhi isn't nearly the offensive player of Tyler Zeller and John Henson but he's a defensive presence and that's something you can never have enough of. Plus, there's the possibility that freshman James Michael McAdoo could bolt for the NBA too. That seemed like a long shot just a month ago, but he played so well down the stretch and that, coupled with the seldom-seen athleticism for someone his size might just be enough to compel him to leave school after one year.
Oriakhi is aware of this too, which explains his interest in the Tar Heels. He informed InsideCarolina.com that UNC hasn't contacted him since his release but that he's intrigued about the possibility of playing in Chapel Hill.
“North Carolina is definitely on our radar,” Alex Oriakhi Sr. said. “I know a lot of the big boys are leaving this year. So, we’ll see what happens."
“He really wants to play in the tournament -- that’s the bottom line,” Oriakhi Sr. continued. “Especially in his final year of college. College isn’t like the pros, it’s a once in a lifetime chance. You have to be able to enjoy your college career.”
As for a future beyond college, Oriakhi Sr. wants a place that will prepare his son for the rigors of the NBA. “On the court, Alex is a gentle giant," he said "He’s a student of the game and he loves to learn. He listens, doesn’t talk too much and doesn’t argue. I want a coach that’s going to work with him -- someone who can teach him the game of basketball on the big man level.”
Whether that's a veiled reference at Jim Calhoun's coaching style or a benign assessment of what a father thinks is best for his son, the bottom line is that the Huskies could be without three-fifths of their starting lineup -- and possibly their coach -- before summer. As for Oriakhi, he's in no hurry to make a decision.
“This is not something we’re going to do overnight,” Oriakhi’s father said. “Coming out of high school he only to took one visit, and that was to UConn when he was only 16. Not everyone has a second chance, so he wants to make the best decision available. I’m going to get the best possible advice. It’s going to be a very careful, deliberate decision.”