As the basketball offseason continues and we move into the fall, Land-Grant Holy Land will be rolling out our basketball player and team previews. There will be two previews a week leading all the way into the start of the season, starting with player previews.
Last time, we started the series with Bowen Hardman. This time around, we are taking a look at fellow freshman Felix Okpara.
Name: Felix Okpara
Weight: 210 pounds
High School: Link Academy in Branson, Missouri
2021-22 stats: N/A
Okpara is the close to a seven-footer big guy that Ohio State fans have been waiting for. Because of guys like Bruce Thornton and Brice Sensabaugh, Okpara has gone slightly under the radar in this recruiting class, but he is still one of the top centers in the 2021 class and the staff feels that he can be an immediate contributor to the team.
Okpara comes into the season after being ranked as the No. 61 overall recruit in the 2023 class, the No. 12 center in the class, and the No. 4 player in the state of Missouri. He is one of the four, four stars in the 2023 class for the Buckeyes. Okpara chose Ohio State over a slew of SEC teams, including Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Georgia.
This was the scouting report that Jerry Meyer gave Okpara back in January. Meyer is the 247 Sports Director of basketball scouting.
“Long and slender build at 6-11,” Meyer said. “Extremely athletic postman. New to the game so raw and still learning. Has potential to be a top-of-the-line rim protector. Excellent rim to rim runner. Thrives on the baseline as a finisher of lobs, dump off passes and missed shots. Not yet a back to the basket and make a move scorer. Active on the offensive glass. Not yet a ball handler or passer. Has a thirst for defending. Needs to refine his defending but the passion and innate ability is there. Moves feet well and is quick off his feet. Has an upper-level niche as an around the basket player.”
As I said with Bowen Hardman, the main goal this season for Okpara is his development. He likely has two years of being the backup center behind Zed Key and then the starting job will be his. This early in his collegiate career, the main focus has to be getting Okpara ready to play 25-30 minutes a game in the near future.
He will also be a strong fixture in the lineup this season. As mentioned above, Key will see the most minutes at center, but Okpara will likely be on the floor when Key is not. With Ohio State’s non-conference schedule being as tough as it is, Okpara and all the freshmen will be tested early and have to get used to the college game fast. Or else the Maui Invitational could get interesting.
If Okpara can play 10-15 minutes a game this season while constantly getting better and learning, that is all you can ask for.
Okpara will play a key role on both ends of the floor as the backup center this season. It is somewhat of a perfect situation, because Okpara will be seeing the floor and getting that experience as a freshman but also, he is sitting behind Zed Key, who will be the mainstay at center for the Buckeyes.
There is a concern that Okpara is too skinny or needs to gain some weight and while that may be true, it is important to remind everyone that he is 18 years old and hasn’t spent that much time with the Ohio State strength and conditioning staff yet. Once he does, he will put on that necessary muscle to compete. He already looks like he has put on some muscle from high school when the team was in the Bahamas.
I expect Okpara to play anywhere from 10-20 minutes per game, depending on who they are playing and the role they need Okpara to play. He is an elite-level shot blocker and has a passion for playing both ends of the floor. That is something coach Holtmann will love and keep him on the floor, even as a freshman who will likely have to work through some growing pains early.