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Syracuse Basketball: Paschal Chukwu Making Strides

Providence transfer Paschal Chukwu has taken his redshirt year as an opportunity to learn and grow.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse has had its fair share of problems along the back of its zone this season. Particularly, the Orange have struggled to defend at the rim.

"We've struggled all year in there." Jim Boeheim said following Syracuse's loss to Virginia this season. "We're giving centers All-American years. We cannot play defense inside. I think that's pretty painfully obvious right now. Guys that average five points a game average 18, 19, 20 against us."

How nice would it be to have a solid rim protector in the middle of the zone? Even before the Virginia loss -- during Boeheim's hiatus -- he expressed his appreciation for Baye Moussa Keita.

"We don't have a defensive center. If we even had a guy like Baye Moussa Keita playing center spot we'd probably have won two or three more games."

The answer to Syracuse's defensive woes in the middle of the 2-3 zone might already be on the team's bench. Sophomore big man Paschal Chukwu has been forced to redshirt this season due to NCAA transfer rules, but he has the opportunity to alleviate some of Syracuse's pain next season. In the interim, he's taken this year to learn the game and get physically stronger.

Donna Ditota recently published a profile of Chukwu's season and everything he's been able to learn. "I haven't been playing basketball really that long. So in a way this is helping me with my game." He told Ditota speaking on behalf of his redshirt season. He's also added some weight thanks to the Mike Hopkins regimen. He's added roughly nine pounds since arriving to Syracuse and plans to be up to 230 pounds by the end of the spring semester.

Standing at 7-foot-2 with the ability to block shots, Chukwu has Syracuse fans excited. And rightfully so -- say what you want about Fab Melo off the court, but Chukwu has the ability to have the impact that Melo had on the defensive end.

But if you ask Chukwu, he doesn't only want his impact to be on one end of the floor. "I want to come in next year and be an offensive threat."

He'll have the opportunity to do that. If not by getting the ball with his back to the basket, Chukwu will have plenty of chances to finish lobs at the rim and for offensive put backs. For now Chukwu will have to wait, but his progress and potential are a cause for excitement for both he and Orange fans alike.