Cats add big man to 2004 class

Arizona's international reach continues to be the theme for the 2004 recruiting class. In a bit of a surprising move, the Wildcats added a fifth recruit to the class, signing a 7-2 center from Nigeria. The newest Wildcat becomes the fourth foreign player to become a part of the recruiting class.

The Wildcats announced Tuesday that Chukwuma Charles Okwandu has signed a National Letter-of-Intent to attend the University.

Okwandu is a 7-foot-2, 210-pound center from Lagos, Nigeria. An unknown quantity in the States, he earned all-star honors at the Top 100 Africa Camp, a camp run by the NBA. He attended Kings High School in Lagos.

Okwandu is still fairly raw and is expected to redshirt next season.

"Chukwuma is very long and athletic player who we feel will be helped immensely with a redshirt season to grow and develop," said Wildcat head coach Lute Olson. "He has a great deal of potential."

Okwandu becomes the fifth international player on the Wildcat's roster and the fourth of this recruiting class. Serbian Ivan Radenovic is already on the roster. Joining the sophomore-to-be is Jesus Verdejo (Puerto Rico), Daniel Dillon (Australia) and Mohamed Tangara (Mali). McDonald's All-American Jawann McClellan is the lone American-born player in the class.

Okwandu adds depth to the post, a luxury the Wildcats went without last season. The Cats enter 2004 with six big men on the roster. Senior Channing Frye and junior Isaiah Fox are expected to be the starters with sophomores Kirk Walters and Radenovic, plus newcomer Tangara fighting for time. Walters has been mentioned as a possible redshirt candidate as well, but he has made great strides in the off season and may be too good to sit.

Prior to the 2004 season the Wildcats had just two international players during the Olson era. Neither Marty Bartmentloo nor Robertas Javtokis made much of an impact in their short Wildcat careers.

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