Chukwu to leave Providence

Paschal Chukwu shocked coaches and fans alike when he announced his plans to transfer from Providence College. The news became known to the public on Monday.

Providence College announced that sophomore-to-be center Paschal Chukwu would leave the program on Monday. The 7’2, 226-pound center did not name a destination but speculation abounds.

Providence’s statement was brief and terse:
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – It was announced today that Providence College freshman center Paschal Chukwu (Westport, Conn.) will leave the men’s basketball team. Chukwu played in 34 games this season and averaged 2.6 points and 2.4 rebounds.

“I would like to wish Paschal success in his future plans,” Head Coach Ed Cooley said. “He helped us have a successful season in 2014-15 and advance to the NCAA Tournament.”

The rumors surrounding Chukwu began to swirl late last week. Sources indicated that the big man had decided to transfer and that the coaching staff was attempting to talk him out of his decision. These same sources, who did not wish to be named, also reported that the staff was taken by surprise.

Ed Cooley confirmed that when he told the Providence Journal, “It definitely caught us all off guard.” Cooley went on to say, “All I’ll say is he has to fit the school and the school has to fit him. He said that wasn’t happening.”

Another source who is close to Chukwu’s family in Connecticut, told, “He was very unhappy. He did not like his experience at Providence. He’s looking for a different experience.” When pressed for specifics, the source did not respond.

Some have speculated that Bob Simon’s leaving may have played a part. It’s true that Simon was instrumental in Chukwu’s recruitment and was close to the family, but Chukwu’s unhappiness appears to have preceded Simon’s departure. Still, there are rumors of Alabama being a possible landing spot.

Whether or not that happens remains to be seen. Certainly, Chukwu will be a primary target for many schools. Coming out of Fairfield Prep, the center was a consensus national Top 65 recruit, slotting in at number 61 in’s final ratings and the highest rated big man that Cooley had ever successfully recruited. While he needs to put on weight and get stronger, with three years of eligibility remaining, at 7’2, Chukwu has NBA lottery pick potential.

All of the sources have indicated that Chukwu is looking for a big-time, big school atmosphere. That’s a change from two years ago, when, despite being able to attend any school out there, his final two choices were Providence and St. Joseph’s, another small, Catholic school that, in many ways, mirrored Providence in size and student body.

Chukwu averaged about 10 minutes per game last season as a freshman and showed glimpses of his vast ability. He has great hands and was practically indefensible on alley-oops near the rim. He also intimidated many shooters with his size and length and projected to be a top of the line rim protector. Cooley remarked often in press conferences that he probably should of gotten Paschal more minutes, but minutes are not the reason that the big man is leaving. He knew that he was in line to play the bulk of time, fouls permitting, at center in the upcoming season.

His departure leaves PC in a precarious position. Already thin in the frontcourt, the Friars have a dearth of post players. A natural power forward, 6’8 Ben Bentil is an undersized candidate to slide to the center spot. Rodney Bullock, a combo forward at 6’7, will be returning after missing the last two seasons, one for a suspension and last year with an ACL injury. Complicating matters is that the one interior player that Cooley recruited, 6’8 Alex Owens, is a major question mark for next season, both academically and also due to an ACL injury.

With reports that teammates are not happy with the fact that Chukwu is leaving or how he left, the late departure marks the second season in a row that Cooley has been burned by a late transfer. Last season, starting two-guard Josh Fortune announced that he was leaving at around the same time, putting the coaching staff in a bind in terms of finding a suitable replacement. That replacement never was found and it can be argued that PC never really solved the two-guard problem last season, which ultimately limited their success.

This year, several talented two guards are set to join the roster, but Cooley will have his hands full trying to patch the hole at center. Top 65, 7’2 centers are not easily replaceable. A fifth-year transfer will be a goal and PC is looking at two right now – Richmond transfer Alonzo Nelson-Ododa and Eastern Illinois transfer Chris Olivier, who is supposed to visit PC after May 21. While PC is also involved with a number of talented 2016 bigs (see the Recruiting Notebook), an immediate infusion of help and a recruiting win would certainly help to ease the sting that Chukwu has created.

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