Why So Much Interest in Alex Oriakhi?

APTOPIX BEast DePaul UConn Basketball

The Hartford Courant's Dom Amore fielded a question in his Monday mailbag that has been asked recently by plenty of UConn fans. It goes something like this: No disrespect, but why, exactly, is Alex Oriakhi drawing so much interest from some big-time programs? He's solid but not spectacular and if one word described his three years in Storrs it would probably be "inconsistent."

Amore's response is an interesting one, drawing parallels with a "veteran baseball star willing to sign a one-year contract."

"He would be a low-risk get for one of the programs that have been mentioned, with a potential high reward," Amore continued. "If a team is losing frontcourt players, Alex could come in and provide immediate, experienced help, and have more impact that most freshmen that could be had. A coach, too, could envision what Oriakhi did in the Final Four in 2011 and imagine he could recapture that, if he is back to his old position, with a change of scenery and fresh start. And a coach would probably have a different vision of what Oriakhi would look like surrounded by a different cast of characters."

We mostly agree, though it's worth noting that, while Oriakhi played well down the stretch in 2011, it took him nearly three months to find his niche. His numbers were good -- 9.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks in 29 minutes -- but the slip in production from his sophomore to his junior seasons should raise some concerns. He averaged just 6.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 21.5 minutes per game. Yes, he averaged more points per minute in '11-12 but his playing time decrease by 7.5 minutes a game and he rarely resembled the player from the national championship squad.

But that brings us back to Amore's point. Coaches know this and they also know that Oriakhi's strengths are on the boards and the defensive end of the court. He's not a guy you build an offense around, especially since he has just one year of eligibility remaining.

"The risk is more on Oriakhi’s part," Amore said. "No coach can really guarantee playing time, or a role. Oriakhi will have to come in and compete for it and make an impression on a new coaching staff. So he will have to pick the place where, based on the roster, he envisions the best chance for success."

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