Hoops Recruiting: Obi Is The Real Deal

One of the greatest compliments a player can receive is when his coach says that he makes his teammates better. That's exactly what Oklahoma State signee Obi Muonelo does when he's on the court for Santa Fe High School in Edmond, Okla.

The 6-foot-5 Muonelo leads the No. 1-ranked Class 6A Wolves (who will be seeking their second consecutive state title when the playoffs begin Friday) in scoring (20.0 points), assists (5.4), three-point shooting (42.2 percent), free-throw shooting (74.8 percent) and steals (2.0). He also is second in rebounding (6.5). All while averaging just 25.7 minutes a game, or just more than three quarters of each contest.

"It's still a team game," Santa Fe coach Guy Hardaker says. "That's the hardest thing I've tried to emphasis with him because he's a kid that I can say, ‘Hey Obi, go get us 40 (points),' and he might go get us 40 but we might not be as good. He shares the basketball real well. He leads the team in assists and scoring, and is second in rebounding.

"His assists come because (our opponents) have to give him so much attention because he's so good offensively. His assists really do come easily because everybody is really trying to stop O," Harkaker continued. "The last game we had (on Friday night), Putnam City ran a box-and-one (defense) on him. I think it did limit his scoring a little bit, (because) he only had 17. But it just left it so open for Ekpe (Udoh) and some other kids on our team that we won big."

Hardaker says it wouldn't surprise him to see Muonelo be a factor for the Cowboys next November when the 2006-07 season begins.

"I think he's going to go in and play because I think he can help them offensively," the Santa Fe head coach says. "I can already see them yanking him out for defensive reasons, but I think he's going to get 15 to 20 minutes (a game) for sure. He's one of those players who can create his own shot. On the next level defenses are so good that you don't get those wide open pull ups (jumpers). You've got to pull up and make your shot. You can run all the offense you want but it boils down to who can make the plays at the end of the 35-second shot clock. It boils down to somebody making a play and making a shot.

"I'm thinking Obi can still create his own shot (on that level) and that's why I think he's going to immediately help Oklahoma State, because he is the type of guy who can do that. To be real honest, he may make them better by letting them do that. I very seldom run any of my sets for Obi because he's so good at making his own shot. We run our sets for our other kids, and Obi just kinds goes and gets his points."

Hardaker says that Muonelo's offense definitely gives him a chance to be a standout in college.

"I think he's really going to be able to help the Cowboys. I think he's going to have to get better defensively to play consistently at that level, but his offensive skills are second to none," he says. "He can dribble in traffic. I don't know how you teach that. He's 6-6, 240 pounds. He's big. He's just blossomed from when he was a freshman to now. He's matured into a strong young man who just keeps getting better and better.

"If you watch him, he's a good shooter and he's a good jumper, but he's not great. I don't think he's one of those guys where you watch him and just say, ‘Oh my gosh, he's the greatest shooter I've ever seen,' or ‘Oh my gosh, he's the greatest jumper.' He's not. He's just good. He can do a little bit of everything. I think his biggest strength is his instinct. He plays on pure instinct. He teaches me a bunch about basketball because I'll see him make a twist off of a set we run, and I'll think how did he get that. It's just pure instinct with that kid."

But Hardaker, as he said earlier, knows that Muonelo will need to improve his defense if he wants to be on the floor for an extended period of time for the Cowboys. "He's going to have to improve defensively. He's got to be a better off-the-ball defender. He loses sight of man and ball. I think less offensively and more defensively he'll need to become a more fundamental player."

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