diseñar nike air max Okafor a quick study in shot
STORRS, Conn. Ben Gordon had heard similar questions from Emeka Okafor. The Connecticut big man always asking Gordon and other Huskies about the game to get different perspectives. But this inquiry was new. This was almost too cerebral, even for Okafor.
Okafor took Gordon aside during the preseason in an effort to get into Gordon’s mind, into the mind of a scoring guard. Not because the 6 foot 9 Okafor wanted to play a few minutes in the backcourt this season, work on a few new drives to the basket or start pulling up for a jumpers in 2002 03. No, Okafor wanted to understand how a guard decides which way to go on a drive, and when a shooter will most likely pull up for a mid range jumper so he would know when to block the shots.
“He wanted to know what kind of things I do to avoid him blocking my shot,” Gordon said. “He wants to get into the mind of a guard so he knows what it’s like when a guard is coming at him and how to anticipate the play. He’s real cerebral with his stuff. He thinks about the game a lot and that’s why he’s such a great defender.”
So, what did Okafor extract from the mind of a scorer? “What I got out of it was that a guard will make one move to get to another,” Okafor said.
Emeka Okafor used his mind, as well as his 6 9 frame, to block 138 shots as a freshman.
Tough? It’s hard to find another big man who is as mentally tough as Connecticut’s super sophomore center. Swatting shots at a record rate as a freshman (138) wasn’t enough for Okafor. Because he understands teams will shy away from him this season, he simply needs to get smarter. Which he is, by the way, than most on and off the court with a 3.9 grade point average in finance. Oh, he’s also on track to graduate from UConn in three years.
“Last year, no one knew I was a shot blocker,” said Okafor, who averaged 4.1 swats a game, second only to Louisiana Monroe’s Wojciech Myrda (5.1). “People started making adjustments and it wasn’t as easy to block the shots. They’re probably doing that now because they’ll be aware of how I block shots. They’ll take certain shots that will be hard for me to block. That’s why I’ve got to constantly learn to make adjustments.”
Okafor attended this summer’s Nike camp, working as a counselor but mainly going to get the tutelage from the NBA coaches. He also went to the Jordan camp and worked out with the NBA players, where most told him it’s a mind set to prevent players from scoring and Okafor received tips about his post defense, where and when to move his feet.
Okafor has worked equally hard on his offensive game. He averaged a modest 7.9 points a game, but he could and should do better. He’s simply around the basket too often to not get at least 10 points a game off of five offensive putbacks alone. His nine boards a game, mostly defensive, still could help him reach that goal. During practices the past two weeks,
he’s shown a drop step hook shot that he couldn’t make nearly as consistently last season. It was clear Monday that he’s also put on 10 pounds of muscle to get up to 252 pounds.
Always the problem solver, Okafor has even started to figure out where the Huskies will pick up the lost points from the departed Caron Butler (19.5 ppg) and Johnnie Selvie. He went to coach Jim Calhoun and broke it down. Those 32 points and 13 rebounds a game the two combined for can be divided among himself, Gordon, Justin Brown and at least one other possibly a freshman like 6 10 rail thin, but offensively quick to the glass center Hilton Armstrong.
“Emeka is so meticulous about everything he does that sometimes, offensively, it can take him longer for his move, but he can score 15 a game,” Calhoun said. “He’s done the math. He said he could add six or seven points to his game. Emeka has to get more touches and we’ll do that.”
But Calhoun said the danger of Okafor becoming more offensive minded is keeping him out of foul trouble with defenders flopping. “Even though we want him to score, we don’t want to throw it down everyone’s throat,” Calhoun said.
Defensively, the UConn guards like Gordon can gamble with Okafor on the backline. Gordon said the safety net of knowing Okafor is behind him means the guards, Tony Robertson and Taliek Brown included, can steer their men to him.
“Emeka could have nine blocks in a game (against Arizona), but he could have nine hurries so he’s affected 18 shots,” Calhoun said. “He has impeccable timing. Donyell Marshall (whose record of 111 blocks in 1993 94 was broken by Okafor) had the long arms. But Emeka has the ability to do three things: to want to block shots; to recover from any situation to get to the ball; to mentally stay tough no matter the circumstance.
“His mental toughness carries over to every part of his life. He’ll get upset with me if I’m messing with his academic time, or his time with the recruit. But that’s the same thing if his academic advisor is messing with his basketball time. He puts everything into compartments. That’s why he’s one of the most mentally though people I’ve seen.”
Monday, Okafor was tired after practice. But after sitting down for a few minutes to be interviewed, he was off to study for a test within the hour.
“The easy thing is to do nothing,” Okafor said. “But I’m going to the library to study for the test. I’ve gotten to the point where it’s harder for me to do nothing than something. If I do nothing then I feel like crap and feel like I’ve been wasting my time. I need to keep active.”
It’s the same on the court. His mind never idles in a game that moves at a rapid pace.
“This game is cerebral to the point that it becomes instinctive,” Okafor said. “You’ve got to think about it so much that it becomes a habit. Some guys can just react naturally, but I’m not that type of person. I have to break it down, learn it so much that I don’t think about it anymore, and then I just react.”