Hoops Recruiting: Udoh Stands Tall

Ekpe Udoh stands 6-foot-10 with a wingspan of 7 feet, 5 inches. But the Edmond (Santa Fe), Okla., senior who has been offered a scholarship by Oklahoma State University could grow taller if he follows in the footsteps of his grandfathers, says Guy Harkaker, his Santa Fe High school coach.

Udoh, who is averaging 15.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 2.6 assists as the Wolves enter the Class 6A playoffs later this week, has two grandfathers in Nigeria who stand at least 7-foot or taller. "Epke's dad is not tall but he has a 7-foot-2 grandfather on his mother's side and a 7-foot grandfather on his father's side," Hardaker said

Hardaker says that OSU assistant coach Jimmy Williams was impressed with Udoh's performance last Friday in No. 1-ranked Santa Fe's 87-60 victory over No. 2 Putnam City (playing without OU signee Keith Clark who was out with an ankle injury). Udoh finished with 24 points, six rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots. "Epke was the best player in the gym," Harkaker said.

"Deep down he's been wanting to play college basketball with Obi (Muonelo), and they've wanted to stay together," Harkaker continued. "It just wasn't working out (because) the same guys weren't recruiting them."

But now it appears that the Santa Fe pipeline to OSU will likely add a third player in Udoh. He would join Muonelo, who signed with Oklahoma State during the November signing period, and guard Andy Shaw, a senior guard for the Wolves who is expected to walk on for the Cowboys (check GoPokes.com on Thursday for stories on Muonelo and Shaw).

One reason the Cowboys and others hesitated to offer Udoh is because of a history of injuries. He has only played in Santa Fe's last 13 games after undergoing surgery in August for a dislocated shoulder. Udoh also had a knee problem when he was a freshman. "But he can still get it done," Harkaker said. "He shoots it pretty good. He's long as all get out. He stands about 6-10 in his shoes, and his wingspan is 7-5."

The shoulder injury actually occurred during the preseason prior to his junior year, but he was able to play all season while undergoing physical theraphy. Then, this past summer, he reinjured the shoulder. "I was trying to get him to get it fixed immediately so he'd be ready for the season but he was afraid that it was going to hurt his recruiting (on the AAU circuit over the summer)," Hardaker said. "He played the entire summer with a shoulder that was only being held in with a brace."

But Hardaker believes that Udoh could provide a presence inside that the Cowboys haven't had for years.

"The area he's going to be most prepared to play D-I is the defensive area because the kid's good on defense," his coach says. "He'll mislead a lot of people – a lot of people will think he's not in a very good stance or he looks like he's just lollying around but he sets a lot of people up for blocked shots. He had 87 blocked shots last season. He drives me nuts because I'm always talking to him about sliding over in front of a guy, but he's not a slide-over-in-front kind of guy. He's going to challenge every shot. He can rebound the crap out of it. At times he's really good at above-the-rim play.

"I think the thing he'll have to work on most is shooting. He's going to play a four on their level because he's a good ballhandler. I don't think he'll be a back-to-the-basket guy because I just don't know if he'll ever weigh enough. But he'll be a great four-man in college. He makes that 15-footer, 17-footer ... last year he made several threes. I let him shoot the occasional three but in high school basketball he's got to have his back to the basket."

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