NCB On The Trail: Paschal Chukwu

College basketball’s incoming freshman class features some elite rim protectors. They are the guys who are able to patrol the paint on defense and turn away a wide variety of would-be scorers. Here are the best shot-blockers in the class and one name to know in 2015:

1. Myles Turner, Texas
He went on national television and announced he was going to “hook em.” Well, he might have also meant he was going to “block em.” Arguably the best shot-blocker in the rising freshman class, Turner will provide an immediate boost to Texas’ defense with his ability to turn away shots at the rim. What’s going to be interesting is to see how Rick Barnes elects to use Turner in combination with returning center Cameron Ridley, not to mention last season’s starting power forward Jonathan Holmes. The trio is likely to see plenty of time on the floor together next season, which could mean more of a 2-3 zone from the Longhorns. That allows both Turner to anchor himself to the front of the rim when he plays in the middle, as well as show his mobility in challenging shots on the perimeter from the wing position.

Freshmen might be the talk of college basketball this season, but if you are paying attention you are starting to notice that experience counts.

The new No. 1 team in the country, Florida, starts a quartet of seniors in Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young and Will Yeguete.

The leading candidate for this year’s Wooden Award as college basketball’s best player is also a senior, as Creighton’s Doug McDermott is averaging 26 points and almoist 7 rebounds while shooting high percentages from the 3-point line, free-throw line and the field.

So while Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Joel Embiid and Tyler Ennis could all bolt for the NBA -- only to be replaced by the likes of Jahlil Okafor, Myles Turner, Cliff Alexander, Tyus Jones and Emmanuel Mudiay -- it might actually be others from the 2014 class, who might not necessarily have the same level of instant success, but nonetheless go on to make their mark on college basketball by staying longer and getting better at each step along the way.

Here’s a look at some of the most likely candidates:


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Roundtable: Non-top 50 impact players 

February, 11, 2014
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Freshmen have been the talk of this college basketball season, and while the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, and Julius Randle have all been as good as advertised, there have certainly been plenty of surprises as well.

Tyler Ennis rose up the rankings to the No. 20 spot in the final ESPN 100 of 2013, but few could have predicted that he would this good this early for Syracuse.

Then there are those like Texas’ Isaiah Taylor, Kansas State’s Marcus Foster, and Villanova’s Josh Hart, freshmen who have exceeded the prevailing expectations at the time of their signings and have made an immediate impact.

In some cases, these contributions can be more predictable than others, such as when there is an immediate opportunity or a particularly good fit with the program’s style of play. With that in mind, we asked our team of RecruitingNation experts to look ahead and identify one current ESPN 100 prospect outside of the top 50 who they believe can make a notable immediate contribution.


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Providence class is official

November, 13, 2013
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The Providence Friars announced the signing of three players to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.

ESPN 100 C Paschal Chukwu (Westport, Conn./Fairfield College Prep), ESPN 100 SF Jalen Lindsey (Franklin, Tenn./Huntington Prep) and PF Ben Bentil (Middletown, Del./St. Andrew's) signed on with head coach Ed Cooley's 2014 class.

"Ben, Pashcal and Jalen will provide depth, length and athleticism to our team," Cooley said in a press release. "We feel that these three nationally ranked players will help us to continue to build our program towards achieving our ultimate goal."

Stock risers in the ESPN 100 

November, 1, 2013
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Yesterday, Jeff Goodman broke down a list of players poised for breakout seasons in college basketball. But those kinds of seasons don't just happen at the college level. They happen all the time in recruiting, too.

Just take a look back at last year’s ESPN 100. Joel Embiid, Aaron Gordon and Wayne Selden were all players who moved their way up the rankings by virtue of big performances in their senior seasons. Embiid was the classic late-bloomer whose emergence was consistent throughout the year, and Gordon and Selden used specific events, the Hoophall Classic and McDonald’s All-American Game, respectively, to make their statements.

This year, there’s bound to be more of the same. Here’s a look at a few guys in the current ESPN 100 who are definitely trending in the right direction.

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On Thursday, we examined the last 10 national champions in order to determine if recruiters put too much emphasis on potential one-and-done prospects.

What we found was that unless those prospects were once-in-a-generation talents like Carmelo Anthony or Anthony Davis, the answer may be yes.

So if college coaches shouldn’t be investing so much time on potential one-and-done prospects, who should they be focused on?

Recent history tells us that NBA-caliber talent should still be put at a premium, but likely the type of talent that needs two, or ideally three years of seasoning in the college ranks first. Experience is especially true in the backcourt where there is a clear correlation between championship caliber teams and experienced ball-handlers/decision makers.

With those findings in mind, we went through the current ESPN 100 and looked to see who could possibly be among the best juniors in the country three years from now:


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Scout's take: Bentil to Providence 

September, 30, 2013
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Three-star senior power forward Ben Bentil (Middletown, Del./St. Andrew’s) made a verbal commitment to Providence on Monday, joining a pair of ESPN 100 prospects in center Paschal Chukwu (Westport, Conn./Fairfield Prep) and small forward Jalen Lindsey (Franklin, Tenn./Huntington Prep) to complete the Friars' frontcourt of the future.

Why he committed: Ultimately, this was about two things: Bentil saw Providence as a program on the rise, and the Friars had immediate minutes to offer him next year. The fact that Miami and Georgetown both landed other prospects up front certainly didn’t hurt the Friars' chances, but ultimately this is yet another example of how dynamic head coach Ed Cooley can be on the recruiting trail when he locks in on a target.


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Scout's take: Chukwu to Providence 

August, 29, 2013
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When coach Ed Cooley makes a recruit a priority the percentages are usually in favor of the Rhode Island native. The Friars landed earlier tonight big-time ESPN 100 center Paschal Chukwu (Westport, CT/Fairfield Prep). This Providence program is beginning to take shape just like the Fairfield team that ED Cooley took to postseason appearances.

Why he committed: Trusted assistant Bob Simon has been recruiting Chukwu for a couple of years and the trust factor with Cooley, Simon and staff was hard to beat as loyalty and trust were a big part of the decision. The proximity was perfect as Chukwu wanted to be close to home and be in a big-time basketball program with a small-school feel. Providence checked all the boxes.

What he brings: Great length and excellent mobility. Chukwu's approach in the paint, specifically at the rim, has been much more assertive as he looks to block more shots on defensive and finishing with authority by dunking more on the offensive end. What makes his shot blocking special is his timing as he waits and leaves his feet seconds after the offensive player has jumped up in the air and released the ball.

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It was an incredibly busy weekend of action on the recruiting front, not just because of the series of high-major commitments, but also because of trimmed lists, scheduled visits, and scholarship offers, all of which have the potential to create multiple ripples on the pending domino effect.

Commitment Catch-Up

• ESPN 100 PF Craig Victor (New Orleans, La./Findlay Prep) commits to Arizona: The 31st-ranked prospect and 5th best PF in the country announced on Saturday he was heading to Arizona, giving coach Sean Miller his third high level combination forward in as many years.


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