Virginia Tech men’s basketball coach Mike Young had his work cut out for him when he took over for former head coach Buzz Williams in April.
Despite every member of his inherited 2019 class decommitting and signing elsewhere, Young still managed to start from scratch and turn in a top 50 2019 class in the nation according to 247Sports.
That class started with the signing of Hunter Cattoor. Then came the most pivotal signing of all, extremely talented point guard Jalen Cone.
However, Young was not done there. In mid-June, the Hokies signed two more recruits within three days, guard Naheim Alleyne and forward/center John Ojiako.
Here is our scouting report on Ojiako:
What stands out first for Ojiako, the big man from St. Petersburg, FL who, much like Cone, reclassified from 2020 to 2019, is his size and athleticism. He is officially listed at 6-10, 190 pounds. Take a look at his highlights here:
— Team Thrill (@TeamThrillUAA) January 16, 2019
As you can see from this tape, Ojiako is both tall and long and can finish at the basket with ease.
With the departure of grad transfer Kerry Blackshear, Ojiako is now the tallest player on Virginia Tech’s roster. In addition to that, he has a wingspan of over seven feet.
That type of height and length will always make for a more seamless transition to the college level, even in the ACC.
What can the Hokies expect out of Ojiako?
Offensively, Ojiako will never be a centerpiece. He does have a good ability to finish at the rim along with a decent enough skillset in the midrange, but it is clear he is not a creator on that end of the floor.
In Young’s offense, a big man is not necessarily meant to be the focal point of the offense anyway.
When watching Young’s teams at Wofford, their offense was defined by guards who could light it up, especially behind the three-point line. Those guards were typically joined by one or two athletic big men who could set screens and keep the ball moving to get shooters open. Those bigs would typically also have the task of getting offensive rebounds and making plays near the basket when open.
On these two plays run by Young’s team at Wofford last year, we see examples of how Ojiako could fit into the offense.
In both instances, the play is set up by the big man. The big man moves from outside of the post and sets a screen, freeing up the shooter for just long enough for a catch and shoot. Expect to see plays like this where Ojiako’s movement off the ball frees up shooters like Cone, Landers Nolley, Cattoor, and Wabissa Bede to score.
If he continues to develop and starts to prove an ability to score in the post, we could see plays like this from him:
In this play, it is pretty clear that Young’s system and Wofford’s plethora of shooters make life easy for the big man. Notice how when #33 gets the ball in the post, the other defenders do not even bother to look at him.
The defense is so conditioned to keep the guards from getting open looks, they leave the Wofford big man alone with a one-on-one matchup against a less skilled defender. If Ojiako learns to take advantage of matchups like this one, he can grow into a very valuable asset for Young’s system.
Defensively, an athletic player at Ojiako’s size is always going to make life harder for opposing offenses. Expect Ojiako to play a lot of help-side defense in order to protect the rim and prevent easy buckets.
The notable player that Ojiako most reminds me of is Houston Rockets center Clint Capela. Both players are 6-10 with wingspans longer than seven feet, and both are strong finishers at the rim without being much of a threat from the outside.
Capela is not the best player on his team and never will be, but he has benefitted from being a strong presence on the inside with a strong group of guards, much like what Ojiako will try to do.
Plays like these from Capela are similar to plays Young will be hoping to see from Ojiako:
Capela uses his lethal combination of length, strength, and athleticism to force his way over and around the defender to finish at the basket.
The biggest difference between Ojiako and Capela is their weight. Capela weighs roughly 55 pounds more than Ojiako, which is mainly due to Ojiako’s skinny frame.
A player of Ojiako’s height should typically weigh at least 200 pounds. Fortunately for Ojiako, players his age typically grow a tremendous amount in college once under a collegiate strength and conditioning program.
Ojiako is still very young, considering he was supposed to be going into his senior year of high school this year. This gives Young and Co. a lot to work with in terms of getting him in the weight room and helping him build strength.
An ideal weight would probably be in the 205-215 range, which would put him a lot closer to Capela, considering Capela weighed in at 220 when he was drafted. He has since put on 25 pounds in his five-year NBA career.
If he can build muscle and gain weight, Ojiako’s game can really start to blossom as he can become more of a threat to score in the post.
If this raw prospect develops into that threat, Hokie fans should be very excited at his potential impact on the team’s success, particularly in how he can set up potentially elite scorers in Landers Nolley and Jalen Cone to showcase their abilities.
Do not expect John Ojiako to start immediately, but depending on how quickly he is able to grow and develop, he could begin to see starter’s minutes by his sophomore year or even the end of his freshman year at the earliest.