Chris Obekpa wasn’t planning on being at another season Tip-Off with his St. John’s basketball teammates when last year ended.
The 6-foot-10 junior center, one of the nation’s top shock blockers, decided he was going to transfer from St. John’s in April. The Johnnies missed out on the NCAA tournament and were bounced out of the NIT in lopsided fashion by Robert Morris.
“I was upset at the end of last season,” Obekpa said. “I made an emotional decision. I was mad that I wasn’t playing and thought things weren’t going to work here, I got to transfer.
It didn’t take long for him to realize he had made a mistake. Just two weeks later, after also looking into other possible destinations. Obekpa returned to St. John’s. He was back on the court again with his teammates in front of a packed house at Carneseca Arena Friday night to help the Red Storm get set to kick off what they believe can be a special season.
“I sat down and talked to my family and realized it was the wrong decision,” Obekpa said of leaving. “We started something here and I came back to finish what we started.”
He is expected to be a big reason why St. John’s has a realistic hope of winning the Big East tournament and making the NCAA tournament. Red Storm coach Steve Lavin raved about the improvements Obekpa made to his game in the offseason.
“Chris has had the best offseason I have ever seen in all my years of coaching.” Lavin said.
Obekpa smiled when asked about his coach’s praise. He worked everyday on his offense and Lavin sees Obekpa having the talent to average double-digit points and rebounds per game if he stays out of foul trouble. His potential for doing so has been on display.
“I have gotten more aggressive on the offensive side of the ball and I’m putting up more points in our scrimmages,” Obekpa said.
This will be his last season playing with the core group of guys who have been with him at St. John’s his whole collegiate career. Seniors D’Angelo Harrison, Phil Greene IV, Sir’ Dominic Pointer, and Jamal Branch will all be graduating after this season. It’s left them determined to finally succeed together in a big way.
“We’re all like brothers,” Obekpa said. “We’ve been through a lot together and we just have to go make things happen this season.”
Obekpa has NBA potential as he is a force to be reckoned with in the low post. He broke the St. John’s all-time blocks record as a sophomore last season, but Obekpa isn’t worried about the future right now. When Obekpa was announced to the crowd during the Tip-Off event, he came out with that big smile, knowing he made the right decision to come back to a team he calls his family.
“I hope this year is a great year,” Obekpa said. “I’m going to keep working hard and whatever happens next year will happen.”