NEW YORK – Given that his college basketball career is only a few months old, Ike Obiagu has adopted a remarkably mature approach to garnering playing time:
Focus on one specific aspect of the game, then do it as well as possible.
In the 7-foot, 240-pound Obiagu’s case, that thing is blocking shots.
And to only say he does it well would be doing the Nigeria native a bit of a disservice.
Because over Florida State’s last three games – in which he’s blocked six, five and seven shots, respectively – Obiagu has been blocking at an elite level.
No surprise, then, that his minutes have seen an increase too – from 13 to 19 to 21 in what has easily been his busiest stretch in months.
“He just has it,” FSU junior Terance Mann said. “There’s some guys who have it and he definitely does. I’ve never seen it before, like that.”
While he’s still developing his offensive game, Obiagu’s surge on defense and on the glass have come as a pleasant surprise as the Seminoles navigate the transition from regular to postseason.
Not only did he have seven blocks in the Seminoles’ win over Boston College last week, he also grabbed a career-best 12 rebounds.
“I’m just having fun out there,” he said. “The coach trusts me to be out on the floor, so I know I’ve got to do something to keep on earning his trust. I’m just blessed that that’s what I do, so I keep on doing it.”
The latest in a long line of FSU big men from Nigeria – Obiagu joins Uche Echefu, Solomon Alabi and Michael Ojo – Obiagu grew up playing soccer and volleyball and didn’t work much on basketball until his arrival at Greenforest Christian Academy in Georgia.
Obiagu smiles and describes his early days as basketball player as having “no offense.”
“My first three years in high school, I got zero playing time,” he said. “I figured out that I’ve got to do something to stay on the floor.”
For Obiagu, that might have come a little easier than for most.
Because at 7-foot, Obiagu doesn’t need a refined jump shot or a deep repertoire of post moves to make an impact.
Between his height and his wingspan, Obiagu can simply get in the way.
Just ask his teammates.
“It’s definitely hard,” senior forward Phil Cofer said. “Because you don’t know how high he’s going to jump. You think you put it high on the glass, but he’s erasing it.”
Added Mann: “I remember he missed one (block attempt), turned around, then jumped back up and blocked it. I don’t know how he does it. He just has a knack for it.”
And, if he keeps it up, Obiagu might find his name ahead of some elite company in the Florida State record books.
His 63 blocks this season are already the eighth-most all-time at FSU, and just 12 behind Corey Louis (74) for the most ever by a Florida State freshman. (Obiagu is third, Solomon Alabi is second with 73).
With Florida State set to begin postseason play against Louisville on Wednesday, notching 12 more blocks by the end of the year may be a tall order.
But, then again, another glance at the stat sheet shows that Obiagu is more than capable of the feat.
“He’s much further along (at this stage of his career) than some of the other big guys that we’ve had in the past,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Solomon Alabi, guys like that, he’s surpassed them already with just his knowledge of the game, his ability to absorb things.
“But one thing that’s apparent, he can rebound and block shots.”