Loren Woods Version 2.0

A few months ago Josh Pastner jokingly sent a recruiting letter to the unborn child of former Wildcat big man Loren Woods. Pastner joked that you can't teach 7-2 and pointed to the fact that the mother was pushing six-feet, so odds were that their child would be quite tall. Now it appears that he won't have to wait 18 years for the next Loren Woods.

In an unexpected move the Wildcat basketball team announced the signing of center Chukwuma Okwandu. The 7-2 Nigerian center is an unknown quantity in the United States, but according to Wildcat assistant Josh Pastner they got a good one.

Pastner compared Okwandu to the last Wildcat seven-footer.

"He's a lot like Loren Woods," Pasnter said. "He could develop into a great shot blocker."

Okwandu is very raw, and very thin. He may be 7-2, but he weighs just 210 pounds. He won't be asked to come in and try and compete with stronger collegiate players. The coaches don't plan on rushing their new charge to the floor.

"He's very skinny, so he'll redshirt," Pastner said. "We'll bring him along slowly. He doesn't have to come in and play right away."

Pastner's description of Okwandu makes him sound like a dead ringer for Woods. Thin, athletic and active are words used to describe Okwandu, but they might as well describe the former Wildcat big man who played last season with the Miami Heat.

"He's a big time athlete," Pastner explained. "He's all over the floor, all over the rim. He's very athletic, very talented. He's got a lot of potential. He could become a big time shot blocker."

The Cats have actually known about the big man for over a year, and have been evaluating him since they were tipped off about his ability. He was "discovered" at the NBA sponsored Top 100 Africa Camp where he earned all-star honors.

The coaching staff was intrigued, but could not bring him in due to the 5/8 rule. When the rule was repealed the Cats started working hard to get the Nigerian to come to Arizona. Within the past few weeks everything fell in place and Okwandu signed his Letter-of-Intent.

He is serious about playing in college and trying to improve his stock with a chance to play in the NBA.

"He wants to go to college," Pastner said. "He wants to develop and not just bolt to the NBA. He's very hungry."

Pastner noted that getting him into the weight room is vital. First and foremost they have to bulk him up.

The signing could alter Wildcat recruiting just a little bit. The Cats seemed intent on adding a post player in 2005, but now they can probably focus more on a power forward type and less on a center project. They already seemed to favor the likes of Jon Brockman and Kevin Rogers over bigger, less developed players and this signing probably solidifies that decision in the eyes of the staff.

There is still an air of mystery in regards to Okwandu. Regardless of whether he's the next Loren Woods or the next Brian David, his height and athleticism make him too intriguing to pass up.

"You can't teach 7-2," Pastner noted.

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