Fran Dunphy doesn’t know if he’s coached a big as athletic as Obi Enechionyia while at Temple.
“I’d have to go back,” Dunphy said after Temple’s 55-37 win over Tulane Saturday. “When I coached at Penn, Ugonna Onyekwe was one of those guys who was good inside and out.”
At 6-foot-8, Onyekwe, a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year, was a versatile forward who could shoot the three, or beat you off the dribble. When the opportunity arose, Onyekwe wouldn’t shy away from a ferocious block — he had 140 blocks in four years at Penn.
While undersized for a true big, Onyekwe made up for it with his positioning and basketball smarts. When the games mattered most, the Lagos, Nigeria native played at his best.
Remember his 30 points against Georgia Tech in the 2001-02 opener? Or how he’d routinely put up 20 points against Big 5 schools? Onyekwe was an exciting player to watch at Penn.
For Temple, Enechionyia draws similar comparisons. He has similar size (6-8/220) and has both an inside and outside game. The freshman’s skillset was on display Saturday.
Enechionyia scored 12 points on 4 for 7 shooting and 2 of 4 from three-point range against the Green Wave, while pulling down four rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes.
“Obs is a talented guy,” Dunphy said. “He’s going to get better and better. He made some big shots for us. He made a huge three away from our basket in the second half. He really did a pretty good job, but he’s getting better each and every game.”
It’s getting easier for Enechionyia, as it should for any freshman. The more games you get under your belt, the more comfortable you get. Was this his best game yet?
“It’s hard to say. I’ve had a couple games where I thought I played pretty well,” Enechionyia said. “Could have done better defensively this game (something Dunphy also alluded to).”
What has the Springfield, Virginia, native learned after 22 games at the collegiate level?
“I just have to choose the spots,” Enechionyia said. “The right times to be aggressive and the right time to let the guards do their thing. That’s kind of one of the things I had to get used to, but like I said, it’s getting easier every game.”
Earlier in the season, Enechionyia earned his way into the starting rotation. Since, he’s been relegated back to the bench in favor of Devontae Watson. But that’s not lost on the kid. It’s a role he’s embracing and one he’s much more comfortable with. It’s what’s best for the team.
“I feel better coming off the bench,” he said. “I like to bring energy to the team when we’re down. When everybody’s a little bit tired, I can come in and bring energy defensively.”
And that’s OK by Dunphy, who added the Owls need Enechionyia’s spark off the bench.
“If he says that, and he’s comfortable with that, then I’m OK with that,” Dunphy said. “Whatever Obs says is OK by me, but he’s got to be ready when his minutes come. I thought [Saturday] he was very much ready. He made some big, big shots for us.”
*Story originally published on NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com.
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