Shittu Making A Name For Himself

Rogers Providence Christian Academy sophomore and Nigerian-born forward SK Shittu (6-9, 195), who just finished up a solid 2014-2015 season that earned him a pair of scholarship offers, will be on hand to see No. 18 Arkansas (22-5, 11-3) host Texas A&M (19-7, 10-4) Tuesday night at Bud Walton Arena.

One of the state’s best sophomore basketball players will be at Bud Walton Arena Tuesday night to take in Arkansas’ game with Texas A&M.

Rogers Providence Christian Academy sophomore forward SK Shittu (6-9, 195) – a Nigerian native – just finished up a season in which he averaged 12.3 points, 13.6 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game.

Shittu is a former soccer player who was very raw when he first arrived in the United States 18 months ago, but has been a quick study per Patriots head coach Austin Bivens.

“When he first arrived, we thought he might be an NAIA-type player when it comes to college just based on his height and his athleticism, but he kept improving during his first season and you’re thinking maybe Harding (University) or a school like that going into this past season,” Bivens said.

“But we have a certified strength and weight trainer and he got stronger – he can dead lift 400 pounds and is just ripped now - and has just really come so far,” Bivens added. “He has always had the athleticism and you can now see that he is going to be a high-major elite guy if he just keeps working hard.”

Shittu, who was one of the standouts at Arkansas’ Elite Camp last summer, picked up offers from Tulsa and UCA during this past season.

Arkansas, Oklahoma, Memphis, Davidson and Southern Illinois are among the other schools showing interest.

He was invited to take in Arkansas’ game tonight by Razorback assistant coach Melvin Watkins while fellow Arkansas assistant Matt Zimmerman has been to watch him play.

“Arkansas has started to show a lot more interest and he’s excited about going to see them play tonight,” Bivens said.

It certainly is a different environment from what Shittu was used to in Lagos.

“The first time he got the house, he said ‘Sir, what times does the electricity shut off?’” Bivens remembered. “He said ‘in Lagos most nights it shuts off around 9 p.m.’”

Providence Christian finished 24-12 this season, but won the Oklahoma Christian School Athletic Association Large School Classification Tournament title by winning three games.

That included downing Del City, Okla., Destiny Christian 57-41 in the championship game – avenging last season’s loss to the same school in the title game.

“I have been at the school now for six years and we have had the International program for the last two years,” Bivens said. “What we are looking to do is play the best level of competition we can and still give our kids the opportunity to get a great Christian education.”

It’s schedule this season included games against Arkansas teams Southwest Academy, Earle and White Hall and Oklahoma squads such as Tulsa Memorial, Talequah, Coweta, Sand Springs and Collinsville.

“What we would like to do is play a schedule that allows us to play the caliber of teams that are in the 5A to 7A conferences in Arkansas,” Bivens said. “We are trying to do that through playing an independent schedule.

“I would love to play some of the 7A schools around here, but I think that becomes like a Boise State thing in that they may not want to schedule us, but hopefully it will happen,” Bivens added. I think it would be good for all involved.”

One of the areas that Shittu – a 16-year-old who will play for former Arkansas player Brad Friess’ Northwest Arkansas Hawks’ 17-and-under AAU squad this summer - has improved the most since arriving in Rogers is his hands.

“He had soft hands, but couldn’t catch anything,” Bivens said. “The ball would go into him and it would just bounce off his palms every time. He could handle the ball, he could shoot the ball, but he just couldn’t catch it, which was obviously an issue.

“So we did everything trying to help him with that,” Bivens added. “We tried everything – tossing smaller balls to him, even tossing a Frisbee to him to try and help. It was like a Rocky training program. Finally he got to where he could handle it and started catching the ball with his fingers instead of his palm.”

Shittu, who has an 84-inch wingspan, averaged 7.8 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks as a freshman for a Providence squad that went 20-4.

“His stats went up in every category, except for blocks and that was a good thing,” Bivens said. “He tried to swat away everything – like (current Razorback) Moses Kingsley and thus got a lot of blocks, but also a lot of fouls.

“I think he averaged two less fouls a game this season and only fouled out once,” Bivens said. “He became much smarter about that this season.”

Shittu, whose parents are both 6-foot-4, is not likely going to be a back-to-the-basket guy in college per Bivens.

“He has been playing the four and five and guarding the five and five for us, but he shoots the ball so well and that he is likely to be a three in college,” Bivens said. “We will be working with him to keep improving his feet so he can guard threes and improve his handles.”

Bivens is excited about having Shittu two more years.

“He’s just going to keep getting better and better and we are going to do the best we can to just help him every day,” Bivens said. “I’m happy with the direction that he and our program are headed.”

SK Shittu

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