There are plenty of ways to use an agile, savvy big man like junior Daniel Ochefu. He can be the defensive anchor in the Big East’s smallest lineup, blocking 7.7 percent of opponents’ two-point attempts (fourth best in the conference). And because of his quickness, he can also defend the perimeter, enabling the Wildcats to trap and switch. On offense, too, he can venture away from the basket for pick-and-pops and dribble-handoffs. “Just because he’s 6-foot-11,” says coach Jay Wright, “we don’t want to lock him on the block.”
Still, while Ochefu is down there, he might as well be effective. Too often last season defenders were free to swarm 6-foot-7 JayVaughn Pinkston in the post and play Ochefu loosely, knowing he’d rather pass. So Ochefu spent his summer backing down assistant Baker Dunleavy, working to increase his offensive repertoire (and his average of 5.7 points). “Now I can look to score first and use my passing as a second option,” says Ochefu.
That will create more opportunities for Pinkston, as well as space the floor for the Wildcats’ trey-happy offense. Which is not to say that Ochefu can’t still provide hands-on help from the high post. “We used [that] a lot last year,” says Wright, “and we’re going to use it more this year.” Big East bigs, stay on your toes.
Projected top seven scorers