2022 Center Felix Okpara Thrives as an Elite Shot Blocker

Jason Jordan

Felix Okpara takes on-court focus to another level.

The 6-foot-11 center is so intent on guarding the rim defensively that he takes it personally whenever the other team scores on his watch.

“It’s just like that for me,” Okpara said. “I will guard them til the end, but they’re not gonna score on me. I have to keep that strict mentality; it’s that serious for me.”

Felix Okpara
Felix Okpara thrives at erasing and changing shots at the rim. (Photo: St. James)

It all comes full circle when you learn that Hamilton Heights’ (Chattanooga, Tenn.) center doesn’t think he’s the best shot blocker in the country, “I know I am.”

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“I’m confident in that,” said Okpara, a junior. “It’s not something I ever really worked on, it just came naturally when I started playing basketball.”

That happened just three years ago when Okpara came to the United States from Nigeria. There, he played soccer patrolling field as a defensive midfielder and center midfielder.

Okpara credited soccer for the reason he’s “so bouncy.”

“The drills I did in soccer were all about making your legs stronger and footwork,” Okpara said. “It definitely helped on the court.”

Last weekend at The St. James NIBC Invitational, Okpara broke his season high for blocks in a game with 11 against Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.).

Tonight, he and the Hawks face La Lumiere (La Porte, Ind.) at 7 p.m. ET at the NIBC Invitational.

Okpara’s motor remains in overdrive on both ends of the floor, which creates easy scoring opportunities around the rim and in transition. He’s also capable of extending the defense with his perimeter shooting ability.

That kind of skill set has college coaches lining up in droves.

Okpara already has offers from Vanderbilt, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, San Diego, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Florida and Nebraska, among others. He said he’s recently heard from Florida State, Memphis and Virginia Tech.

“I’m open to everybody at this point,” Okpara said. “I’m probably not gonna cut it down until around the beginning of my senior year. For me, it’s all about working to get better and expanding my game. I want to get better in every way.”