When freshman Chris McCullough took a permanent seat on the bench next to DaJuan Coleman for the rest of the season, there was one huge implication hanging over Syracuse Orange basketball...
What the hell happens when Rakeem Christmas gets into early foul trouble?
The answer, of course, is that we have to lean on sophomore Chinonso Obokoh, who probably otherwise would not have seen anything other that garbage time for the rest of the season. Visions of DaShonte Riley stepping in for Arinze Onuaku danced in our heads, and I don't need to remind you that wasn't a very pretty picture.
Would Chino be up to the task? While he's certainly not going to come close to rivaling Rak's production...or perhaps producing anything on offense at all, Obokoh proved against the Boston College Eagles that he's ready to step in when needed and do his job defensively.
In sixteen minutes of action, Obokoh grabbed four rebounds and made one block while also picking up two fouls. But his performance wasn't really about stats, it was about proving he wasn't just going to be a wasted presence on the court. He certainly instilled a lot of confidence in his teammates with his effort.
"He got us some extra possessions on offense and he played good defense and made people take tough shots and he was big down low," SU guard Trevor Cooney said. "And that’s what you need a big guy to do. He came in and he did what he could do. I’m really proud of him."
"I think he had some good minutes for us tonight," SU forward Michael Gbinije said. "It was nice to see Chino play. I’m a Chino fan myself."
If Gbinije isn't wearing a t-shirt with Obokoh's face on it and "I'm a Chino Fan" underneath by February, I'm going to be disappointed.
Naturally, Boeheim had a slightly different take on the situation...
"We were a bit fortunate. … They didn't go there. They never went there...When Rak is out against most teams, they're going go right there."
Obokoh talked a lot after the game about his mindset when he was in, which was almost so focused he stopped listening to his coaches.
"The only thing that was going through my mind was I have to step up and help the team...Rak and Coach Hop were trying to talk to me, but they know that I'm focused on the game.''
Stay focused, Chino, but, you know...if Coach Hop has some advice, you can probably compartmentalize for a moment to hear what he has to say.
Obokoh credits the fact that he's got a very important person to practice against every day as part of his growth.
"I play against Rak, the best big man in the country right now," Obokoh said. "He’s so good. So I know how to move around. So other guys out there it’s a little bit kind of familiar."
Nice to know the Chino's Best Big Man Award Watch List is one that Christmas didn't miss out on.