It's Day 8 of Oriakhi Watch. The 6-9 forward formerly of UConn was released from his scholarship last week and he's looking for a home for his final year of eligibility.
The news sent some big-time programs into a late-season recruiting frenzy. The early internet favorites include Duke, UNC, Kentucky and Missouri. According to the Connecticut News' Kevin Duffy Oriakhi's father says his son will "definitely visit" those four schools, although because the SEC doesn't allow one-year transfers, Oriakhi would need a special exemption to be eligible. As for the other programs...
Duke was one of 13 schools to contact Oriakhi last week, and Alex Oriakhi Sr. told InsideCarolina.com on March 27 that “North Carolina is definitely on our radar.”
The Tar Heels have four incoming freshmen (including two players 6-9 or taller), and if James Michael McAdoo opts for the NBA after just one season in Chapel Hill, Oriakhi could become an even bigger recruiting target.
Bleacher Report makes a similar argument for the SEC's newest member, Missouri (the same special exemption would apply here, too). "He and Mizzou point guard Phil Pressey played on the same AAU basketball team together—the Boston Amateur Basketball Club. And not only did they play together, but in 2006, they won the national championship together. Oriakhi and Pressey already have chemistry together and want to repeat their AAU success in the NCAA, which makes Missouri an extremely attractive choice."
Oriakhi has ties to Washington, which put the Huskies in the mix, too. The ZagsBlog.com's Adam Zagoria pointed out last week that "Washington loses Darnell Gant and assistant Raphael Chillious has coached Oriakhi at various Nike events and also on a trip to Brazil before Oriakhi went to UConn."
Then there's NC State, Gonzaga, Virginia Tech and Kentucky to name a few more programs. At this rate, we'll be citing long lost great uncles as proof that Oriakhi favors one school over another. The reality is that he' a 6-9, 240-pound forward who had an underwhelming junior season on an underperforming UConn squad, is suddenly the nation's hottest recruit.
During the Huskies' improbable title run in 2010-11, Oriakhi, then a sophomore, averaged 9.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 29.1 minutes of action. In 2011-12, those numbers dropped to 6.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 21.5 minutes of action.
Oriakhi can be a defensive stopper when he's on his game. What he's not, however, is an offensive threat. He's a solid rebounder, and defends the paint well, but if you're expecting him to be anything more than a complementary player on the offensive end, you're miscasting him.
The coaches recruiting him no doubt know this, we just wonder if the fans do. For now, Oriakhi remains silent, but according to StarNewsOnline.com, "A final decision on where (Oriakhi) ends up, however, probably won’t be made until UConn’s NCAA appeal has been heard later this spring."
And that could take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.