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Goodluck Okonoboh comfortable being out of Nerlens Noel's shadow

By Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
Goodluck Okonoboh might have blocked 15 shots against Putnam Science (Conn.) on Friday. (CBSSports.com)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Goodluck Okonoboh was always in the shadow of Nerlens Noel. They played together in high school, on AAU, had similar styles on the court -- and also both had high-top fades.

With Noel off to Kentucky, Okonoboh also moved from Tilton (N.H.), transferring to Wilbraham & Monson (Mass.). And he likes building his own reputation now.

“It feels good,” Okonoboh said.

He sure looked more comfortable on Friday, dominating on the defensive end against Putnam Science (Conn.). The 6-foot-9 big man was credited with eight blocks, but that might have short-changed him -- by about 100 percent. Okonoboh had eight blocks in the first 12 minutes and might have finished with as many as 15. He also had 11 points and eight rebounds, including the game-winning putback with one second left.

Okonoboh played with a ton of energy, involving himself in nearly every play around the basket.

“You can never get too good at defense,” he said. “Blocking shots is an art.”

And Okonoboh has always been good at that art. But now, he has become more aggressive at the other end of the floor. Playing alongside guys like Noel, Wayne Selden, Georges Niang and others at Tilton and with BABC, Okonoboh didn't need to score much.

As one of the veterans on a young-but-talented Wilbraham & Monson team, Okonoboh is being counted on to score more in the post.

“I'm having more of an impact offensively,” he said. “Last year, I was just playing my part. I just try to help the team.”

Okonoboh was originally part of the 2013 class, but he reclassified to 2014 when he transferred. The plan is for him to stay in 2014 -- he doesn't think he will join the growing trend of guys moving back into their original class.

Missouri, Syracuse and Kentucky are among the schools pursuing him.

“Everything is going good right now, got more schools coming in,” Okonoboh said. “I'm just going through the high school year. I want to go to a school where I can go and have an impact right away.”

Noel's talents might have rubbed off on Okonoboh, but he can certainly be a factor on his own merits.

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