2017 SoCal wing Kezie Okpala on radar after eight-inch growth spurt

Kezie Okpala has used an eight-inch growth spurt to go from completely off the radar to an emerging prospect with a high upside.

If you look at last season's roster for Anaheim (Calif.) Esperanza, you'll find Kezie Okpala, then a sophomore, listed at 6-foot-2, which was four inches taller than he was as a 5-foot-10 freshman on junior varsity.

By the end of Okpala's sophomore season he was already 6-foot-5 and he's grown another inch since then to 6-foot-6 and 175 pounds.

Growing eight inches over that time period isn't typically normal, but for the 2017 prospect, the growth spurt wasn't completely unexpected.

"My expected height was 6-foot-5 but my brother is 6-foot-7 and he also grew late," Okpala said.

As a 5-foot-11 freshman and a 6-foot-2 incoming sophomore, Okpala didn't have many eyes on him but as his height grew during his sophomore season, so did his game.

Okpala averaged 2.8 points his first five games as a sophomore but in the last five games he averaged 17.6 points, leading his team to the semifinals in the city playoffs in the process.

U.C. Irvine got word of Okpala's development and it didn't take long for the Anteaters to realize what kind of prospect he was.

"I just picked up an offer from UCI," Okpala said. "I started peaking late in high school season and they went to a couple of my good games. They went out on a limb and saw my potential."

Besides U.C. Irvine, only one other school has even inquired about Okpala.

"Cal State Fullerton said they're going to start recruiting me but I haven't heard from anyone else," he said.

Expect that to change quickly. Okpala is a 6-foot-6 wing with long arms, a very good frame and a high upside. He has ball skills, a nice stroke and is comfortable shooting off the pull, but also really sees the court well, can pass it and plays unselfish basketball.

How athletic he'll ultimately be will be more clear once he hits his final height and starts to gain strength, but even now he's a smooth athlete who has a feel on the glass and should ultimately be able to use his length and instincts to play strong defense.

"I'm versatile and have upside," Okpala said. "I can defend, I'm a good shooter, I'm 6-foot-6 and think I'm a two because I can dribble the ball."

There is a long way to go in Okpala's recruitment and he's completely open to anyone who jumps on board.

"I'm open to anyone who offers," he said. "I don't have any schools in mind and I'll go anywhere."


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