Just hours before Chris Beard’s introductory press conference on Friday, the new UNLV coach learned he’ll have to do even more recruiting in order to fill out next year’s team, as news broke that redshirt senior center Chris Obekpa will enter the NBA Draft.
The initial report came from ESPN via Twitter:
Former St. John’s big man Chris Obekpa, who sat out at UNLV this past year, will declare for the NBA Draft without agent, source told ESPN.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 8, 2016
Obekpa transferred to UNLV from St. John’s last offseason and sat out the 2015-16 campaign as a redshirt. Because he’s reportedly not hiring an agent, he could return to the Rebels for the 2016-17 season if he doesn’t like what he hears about his draft stock.
Obekpa is renowned for his shot-blocking ability. The 6-foot-10 big man has a long wingspan and excellent timing, which helped him swat 3.1 shots per game two years ago at St. John’s (fifth in the country). He likely would have stepped in for Stephen Zimmerman as the Rebels’ starting center next year; Beard utilized 6-foot-11 Lis Shoshi as a last-line-of-defense rim protector to great effect last year at Little Rock, and Obekpa would have been capable of performing well in that role.
It’s too early to gauge what NBA teams think of Obekpa, especially since he sat out last season. Pre-draft workouts will be important, as will in-person interviews with scouts and executives wondering about his disciplinary issues at St. Johns.