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Oriakhi commits to Missouri
By Terez A. Paylor - Posted on 13 April 2012
Missouri has found its starting center in UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi.
COLUMBIA | Alex Oriakhi arrived in Columbia around 9 p.m. Thursday night, his mind pretty much made up.
Few knew it then, but the junior transfer from UConn had already decided he wanted to attend Missouri. He just wanted to make double sure.
“This is where I wanted to go from the beginning,” said Oriakhi, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound center. “It was just a matter of me visiting.”
And while Oriakhi had two more days remaining on his weekend visit – he’s staying through Sunday – it took him less than 24 hours on campus before he realized that by waiting, he was just delaying the inevitable.
So Oriakhi made it official Friday; he was committing to Missouri, thus giving coach Frank Haith's team the defensive presence it sorely needs in the middle next season.
“Why should I delay it when my heart was telling me to commit?” Oriakhi said. “To be honest, I wanted to get it over with so I could relax and focus on getting better.”
Turns out Oriakhi, who also considered Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke and Xavier, shares that strong desire to get better with his soon-to-be teammates.
After he arrived in Columbia on Thursday, he was soon greeted by close friend and former AAU teammate Phil Pressey, who promptly took Oriakhi to the team’s practice facility, where they got some shots up with senior Keion Bell.
“We went right to the gym,” Oriakhi said. “A lot of these guys, from what I’ve seen, they’re all workhorses, and they sleep in the gym. I want to be a part of a team like that.”
Oriakhi said he also got back in the gym with some of his future teammates on Friday. Oriakhi said Bell, the Pressey brothers, Mike Dixon, Danny Feldmann, Earnest Ross, Steve Moore and Marcus Denmon all participated in some pickup hoops.
Shortly thereafter, Oriakhi said he finally gave word to top assistant Tim Fuller – his lead recruiter – that he planned on coming to Missouri.
“I said ‘I want to become part of the Tiger family, I want to commit,’” Oriakhi said. “And he was a happy man.”
Fuller had reason to be happy. As the lone experienced center on the roster, Oriakhi will fill a major void next season, both as a rebounder and a shot-blocker.
During his three seasons at UConn, he averaged well over a block a game, and figures to team with senior Laurence Bowers in giving Missouri a strong shot-blocking tandem in the post.
“I met Laurence today, and he’s a funny dude,” Oriakhi said with a laugh. “He was like ‘Please come here, man. I don’t want to play the five.’” (Haha)
And Oriakhi figures to get his share of minutes, which was important to him, presumably because he saw his minutes take a slight tumble this season because of the arrival of ballyhooed freshman Andre Drummond.
That experience appeared to play a role in Oriakhi’s decision to pick Missouri over his other top finalist, Kentucky, which just landed a commitment from five-star center Nerlens Noel.
“With him there, I just felt like that was their big man,” Oriakhi said of Noel. “I just thought it was too much of a risk, one I wasn’t willing to take.”
But don’t get it twisted - Oriakhi, who expects to move to Columbia as soon as possible, doesn’t want anything handed to him. He’s ready to put in the work.
In fact, he said Friday evening that he and Phil might even get some shots up later that night. After all, it’s never too early to star working toward next season.
“Missouri needs a center, and I’m going to be the center,” he said. “It’s a perfect match.”
Read more here: http://campuscorner.kansascity.com/n...#storylink=cpy