Goodluck Okonoboh is one of the forward targets that Maryland has their eye on. (Photo Credit: Josh Verlin/City of Basketball Love
I attended The Hoop Group’s Summer Jam Fest (King of Prussia, PA) which happens to be the biggest Hoop Group event of the live evaluation period. I took in the 17U third round contest between Mass Rivals and New York Gauchos. Mass Rivals boasts a tremendous amount of Division I talent on their roster, one of which is forward and Maryland 2014 target Goodluck Okonoboh. Okonoboh did not play in the game due playing so many games this week, but I was able to speak with him after the game and he shared thoughts about his playing style, Maryland, and his skill-set.
After adding three extremely talented guards in Romelo Trimble, Dion Wiley, and Jared Nickens to the 2014 recruiting class, Maryland is looking to fill their final available scholarship with a big man.
Without a doubt, Goodluck Okonoboh is one of the premiere post players in the country and would make any team instantly better.
The Mass Rivals star forward has an incredible frame for a basketball player. Okonoboh stands 6’9/220 lbs. and is an incredible athlete. His athleticism allows to alter shots around the rim and sky above the basket for earth-shattering highlight reel dunks.
“He will be a dominant player,” Mass Rivals coach Vin Pastore told TerrapinStationMD. “He is the best shot-blocker in the country and is a freakish athlete with great upside.”
Much like fellow New England native and close friend Nerlens Noel, the most impressive part of his game is his ability to block shots. Despite standing at 6’9, Okonoboh has good speed which allows him to jump back into plays and reject opposing shots. When blocking shots, the Wilbraham & Monson Academy standout nearly gets his head above the rim which puts into perspective how athletic he truly is.
If Okonoboh were to bring his talents to College Park, the sky could very well be the limit. Maryland hasn’t had a big man with this type of athleticism and natural gifts since the late Len Bias graced the hardwood at Cole Field House. The Terps do have some nice interior post players in Shaquille Cleare, Charles Mitchell, and Evan Smotrycz, but none of the aforementioned players possess the type of flash that a guy like Okonoboh has.
What exactly does Okonoboh think that he can bring to a team at the collegiate level?
“I can bring offense, defense, and my work ethic,” Okonoboh told Terrapin Station MD. “I can bring leadership. Guys look at me as one of the best players around.”
“I think I’m like a young Amar’e Stoudemire,” Okonoboh added. “I think I block shots a lot more than he did. I like to take pieces from everybody’s game and put it into mine.”
It’s certainly an interesting comparison since many analysts liken Okonoboh’s game to that of Noel. After all, both are tremendous athletes and block an insane amount of shots. However, the Mass Rivals stud does have a similar body type to that of Stoudemire. Okonoboh is only an inch shorter but Stoudemire does have 25 pounds on him. Stoudemire weighs 245 pounds while Okonoboh only weighs 220. Now on the court, Okonoboh obviously rejects shots at an absolute premium. During Stoudemire’s senior year at Cypress Creek High School in Orlando, the Knicks forward blocked a staggering 6.1 shots per contest.
Stoudemire does appear to be ahead of Okonoboh on the offensive end. The Wilbraham & Monsoon Academy star makes his living at the rim and relies on shots from very close to the hoop. Stoudemire eventually developed a mid-range game, and that is something that Okonoboh will definitely have to work on as he transitions from the high school ranks to the collegiate level.
Now that we’ve established how talented Okonoboh really is, the question becomes: do the Terps really have a strong chance to land him?
Maryland has been recruiting him very hard the last few months. Assistant coach Scott Spinelli was spotted at both the Hoop Group’s Summer Classic East and Summer Jam Fest tournaments in the Philadelphia area this weekend. Mass Rivals played in both tournaments.
“I like their program a lot,” Okonoboh said of Maryland. “I don’t really know too much about their program. After the evaluation period, I definitely will learn more about them.
It sounds to me like Okonoboh isn’t heavily involved in the recruiting aspect during the summer months. He hasn’t cut his list by any stretch and still has plenty of offers from some of the top major programs around the country. He would not say who is recruiting him the hardest.
Okonoboh’s AAU coach Vin Pastore did say that Duke, Indiana, UNLV, Louisillve, and Connecticut have been at a handful of his games and seem to be the most interested.
It appears that the Terps are not one of the top teams in line for Okonoboh’s services for now. The Tom Crean connection seems to put Indiana as the front-runner. However, you can never count out Duke with Coach K’s ability to lure anybody down to Tobacco Road. Connecticut also wouldn’t be a surprise as they are the closest thing to a hometown town since Okonoboh hails from the New England area.
Only time will tell if the Terps are a major player for Okonoboh. But a player of his caliber may wait a while before even announcing a decision date. All I know is that if Mark Turgeon really wants Okonoboh, he will likely be right there for his services at the very end.