Chimezie Metu: Evaluation

USC is off to a rough start in 2014-15, but at least some help is on the way in form of athletic, angular power forward Chimezie Metu.


Introduction


SoCal athlete Chimezie Metu’s sophomore season brought him regional high-major attention that would serve as a springboard to national acclaim. Metu picked up an early offer from Connecticut — Kevin Ollie is a Los Angeles native — and several Pac-12 programs also made certain to watch him in person.

Metu’s 2013 travel campaign brought an increasing number of scholarship offers. Schools such as California, Long Beach State, San Diego State, USC and Washington decided they’d seen more than enough to warrant an offer, and by late that summer the Trojans already had made him a top priority and garnered his affection.

He advanced into the 2014 travel season a hot commodity on the West Coast, but by mid-May he was ready to wrap up his recruitment. Metu announced for USC prior to the summer evaluation period, and naturally the Trojans were thrilled he wanted to shut things down before his situation might begin to take on greater drama.

His actual play for the Oakland Soldiers fluctuated between average and pretty good, and we’ll take a look at why that likely occurred below. Now in his senior season, he’s eager to put the summer behind him and already this year has showcased meaningful improvement.


Assets


Metu’s athleticism is abundant and immediately obvious. He’s so bouncy that it sometimes obscures his overall potential. He’s lanky, fast and explosive, making him the prototypical 6-8 athlete in today’s game. Even better, he’s a tremendous straight-up leaper, enabling him to make plays even while planted directly by the rim.

Metu may be just 2-3 years from impact play

He can be a fantastic offensive rebounder capable of exciting tip-slams, a master at catching alley-oops, an emphatic shotblocker and creative all-around finisher inside. That athleticism should pay dividends on defense as well, due to the fact that he not only blocks shots, but that he can move his feet on the perimeter and down the road could be come fantastic in traps.

Metu is slender now but carries a solid frame, so adding weight shouldn’t be an issue. He’ll need to avoid gaining too much muscle, but in a solid strength and conditioning program he should be fine.

His jump shot is inconsistent but holds promise. I’ve observed Metu knock down baseline shots to 17 feet, and he can hit an open three-pointer as well. As colleague Josh Gershon recently noted, Metu remains in transition from prospect to player, but he has made clear strides and certainly ranks among the top 50 long-term prospects in the Class of 2015.


Deficits


Oh, that production with the Soldiers. Metu simply did not make much happen in his 22 games this year, averaging under five points per game and shooting just 43 percent from the field and 55 percent from the foul line.

He actually converted 6-13 on threes, but his overall numbers and efficiency just weren’t there. And his rebounding numbers were just adequate, at five boards per contest.

Now, in fairness, there’s a caveat. This is the third time I’ve written this specific caveat, because it applies to all three Soldiers big men: Metu, Ivan Rabb and Stephen Zimmerman. Truthfully, there was no way to accommodate three players so similar in size and at least somewhat in style. All of their numbers suffered as a result, and fans frequently left Soldiers games expecting more from each man.

For that reason, then, don’t read too much into Metu’s EYBL production. Yes, it’s true that he remains a work in progress, but he has been far more effective at other venues and jumped out to a great start this season.


Outlook


Metu might be a fan favorite more than a coaches’ favorite early in his career, because his highlight plays will make him popular with the crowd while his need for greater polish might compel the USC staff to bring him along at a more gradual pace.

In the long-term, the fact that Metu flashes ability from range suggests he could truly blow up. We know he’s a great athlete and immediately will be an asset for the Trojans from that perspective, but as he gains confidence and skill, he could become a leading light for the program.

Given that USC ranks in the top 100 in tempo this season and was No. 26 last year — extremely fast for a major conference squad — Metu projects as an excellent fit and was a key win for Andy Enfield as he retools his club.


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