Villanova’s Ochefu is a secret weapon for the Wildcats

Daniel Ochefu
Villanova’s Daniel Ochefu is just a sophomore, but has been making noise for the Wildcats down the stretch.

Somebody unexpected will be waiting for them when the team from Peyton Manning’s “favorite” city comes to town tonight to face No. 6 ranked Villanova with first place in the new Big East at stake.

That would be Creighton, from Omaha of course, which will have to deal with emerging Wildcats’ big man Daniel Ochefu. The 6-foot-11 sophomore from nearby Westtown, PA dominated both ends of the paint in ‘Nova’s impressive 88-62 win over DePaul Saturday, showing what a force he can be when he stays on the court and out of foul trouble.

That figures to pose an additional problem for the No. 20 ranked 15-3 Blue Jays. Then again just watching tapes of All-American Doug McDermott & Co. , who excel on precision ball movement on offense and sound overall fundamental play, gives Jay Wright’s 16-1 gang plenty to worry about.

“They’re just really good sound offensive players,’’ said Ochefu, who scored a career high 14 points, pulled down six rebounds, handed out four assists and blocked three shots against the Blue Demons. “Doug McDermott is a great player, so obviously he’s gonna be our main focus. But we can’t sleep on their other players.’’

And if Saturday was any indication, teams won’t be able to sleep on Ochefu, whose path to the Main Line is just a bit out of the ordinary.

“We went from Maryland (Baltimore), to Nigeria for 3-4 years, then Pennsylvania,’’ explained Ochefu, who spoke only English there, where he played more soccer than basketball. “It was a real good experience for me. My father has a lot of family there. He just wanted me to meet them.  It was a big adjustment and a complete culture shift going over there.’’

He’s also used to handling the ball, not usually the case for a big man.

“My high school coach  had me run a little bit of point,’’ said Ochefu, averaging a modest 4,9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks  for the season.  “They pressed us in high school (East Downingtown),  so I would just bring the ball up. When I came here there were so many good shooters so I just worked on passing to them.’’

Having a near 7-footer who can not only impose his will at the defensive end, but serve as a low post threat with the ability to distribute the ball, figures to make the ‘Cats even meaner.

“It takes time for a forward to develop,” said Wright, whose club shot a blistering 19-for-26, 73.1% in the second half to turn a 33-24 game into a rout. “I’m so proud of him. He works hard at his offensive skills and takes great pride in his passing and his defense  being able to keep him on the floor when he’s playing like this offensively is real big for us.’’

Especially since that will give Creighton, where Paul Silas, Kyle Korver and Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson once called home, one more thing to worry about besides Villanova guards Ryan Arcidianco, Darrun Hilliard forwards JayVaughn Pinkston and James Bell and freshman sensation  Josh Hart. “It’s been little bit frustrating until now,’’ said Ochefu, who sheepishly admits he has no idea what his family name means in Nigerian. “So it’s really good being on the court for my teammates. I know I’m a big defensive presence, but it was big to see the ball go through basket and get some blocked shots and rebounds Definitely a big boost for my confidence.’’

And yet one more reason the kids from Omaha and the rest of the Big East are all looking up in the standings at Villanova.


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