When our Brian Snow first observed Paschal Chuwku during the 2012 travel season, he observed that the admittedly raw native of Nigeria held outstanding long-term promise. A year later and we're saying exactly the same thing, but clearly Chukwu has edged a little closer to achieving his ultimate potential over the past 15 months.
Chukwu's 2012 summer, followed by a strong junior season. led to national interest from numerous former Big East schools as well as others: Georgetown, Syracuse, Connecticut, Providence, Boston College, Villanova, St. Joseph's, Xavier, Temple and Purdue.
He attended the NBPA Top 100 Camp this past June and once again made a strong impression thanks to his elite shotblocking ability. Competing against many of the nation's best, that week solidified his place among the national top 100 seniors.
By mid-summer, he identified Providence and UConn as his most ardent pursuers. He also spoke about taking visits to St. Joe's and Villanova.
But Chukwu had seen enough by late summer, and he made his decision in favor of Ed Cooley's Friars. He'll be one of the most defensively gifted and determined players to enter the Big East in 2014-15.
You may have already guessed it, but shotblocking stands out most. Chukwu's height and reach are exceptional, and he gets full value from his primary attributes.
He doesn't gamble for steals on passes or try to impress anyone by sliding his feet on the perimeter. He hunts potential blocks like a vulture circling its prey, as little guys hobble toward the bucket and toss up shots that are doomed to be devoured. He blocks them on the ball and from the help side, and that persistence can result in dysfunctional offense for the opponent.
Chukwu also rebounds fairly well and, again, displays sound big man discipline by maintaining close proximity to the rim. If he fails to grab a carom, it won't be because he tried to leak out on the break.
Meanwhile, there's at least some optimism surrounding his offensive game. He appeared to catch the ball fine during our observations, and his face-up jump shot might become a legitimate weapon in a few years.
Clearly, Chukwu is nowhere near an offensive player. He doesn't possess the tools or even the identity to be a post scorer, and thus he can become an afterthought in the minds of his teammates. His best offense at the moment is a putback or else catch-and-dunk, because on the whole he's quite limited on that end of the court.
He also doesn't possess elite reflexes and thus can get out-quicked to rebounds. Smaller big man also can trouble him off the dribble, provided they've proved they can hit a short jump shot and force him to contest.
The words "poor man's Dikembo Mutumbo" wafted past at NBA Camp, and while that's a stretch at least it gives the reader a sense for Chukwu's game. He's a defense-first guy who specializes in shotblocking, and with time he should become a fine defensive rebounder as well.
Some defensive specialists become too much of an offensive albatross to command heavy minutes, but the hope and expectation here is that Chukwu will catch and finish well enough to win a starting position at some point. At his size and with his length, it's too risky a proposition to bet against him.