Friday, February 17, 2012

Alex Oriakhi Excelling in Classroom

Alex Oriakhi is averaging just 6.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game this year, both well down from last year's numbers (9.6, 8.7).

But by far his most impressive -- and, in the long run, perhaps most relevant -- number he's logged this season is 3.6. That's his grade-point average from last semester, Oriakhi said on Friday. Prior to Wednesday's win over DePaul, he and three walk-ons -- Kyle Bailey, P.J. Cochrane and Ben Stewart -- were honored for notching GPA's north of 3.0, as well.

“All my hard work studying, keeping my grades up, it’s definitely an accomplishment," Oriakhi said. "I was happy to be recognized.”

Oriakhi, who is majoring in sociology but may switch to communications, said he learned a lot from one particular teammate the past two seasons.

“Just watching Kemba (Walker), he was definitely a role model, even off the court," Oriakhi noted. "Just to see the kind of student he was. It’s easy for kids not to care about their grades and just go to class, but Kemba definitely excelled in the classroom. He was definitely a role model for me, academically.”

(Beating Marquette may be signature win Huskies need).

With so much scrutiny -- fair or unfair -- on UConn's academics lately (APR, etc.), Oriakhi's good grades are a nice representation for the program right now.

"I definitely am going to work hard, and hopefully my teammates can follow suit and get their grades up," he said, adding that he's not even the lead dog, academically, for the Huskies right now.

"I think Boat (Ryan Boatright) has the highest GPA overall, so now I’ve got to catch up to him.”

Oriakhi is leading the team on the court, as well. His 14-point, 10-rebound effort against DePaul was his second double-double of the season (he had 11 last year), and his oncourt leadership has been noticealbe ever since he called a team meeting a couple of weeks ago.

“I just tell myself when I’m out on the court, ‘Just talk,'" Oriakhi said. "DeAndre said when he hit those two 3’s (vs. DePaul), he heard me cheering for him and it made all the difference for him. When I’m on the court, I’m going to be the loudest guy out there. Even if I’m on the bench, I’m going to be cheering for my teammates."

Said George Blaney: “Since that (team meeting), he has fully committed to being ‘all-in.’ He’s just been great. I love the way he played the other night with the 14 and 10. When he plays with confidence like that, and with that kind of exuberance and energy level, it’s really good for us.”

"He’s the one veteran we’ve had, he’s been through a lot of wars," Blaney added. "He’s put up some incredible numbers against some really, really good basketball teams over the years. That’s what we need from him. The more he does that, the easier it will be for Andre, Tyler and Roscoe to do things, too. Especially with rebounding, defense and scoring inside.”


*** Everyone is pretty much healthy for UConn. Both Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond are good to go, DeAndre Daniels has been battling a bad back but will play tomorrow, and Roscoe Smith (Achilles) also should be able to play. Smith didn't play at all against DePaul on Wednesday. He could have, if needed, but had missed the prior two practices -- and, as it turned out, UConn did just fine without him.

*** has team pages on every team in the country, focusing on their RPI, strength of schedule, etc., throughout the season. It's alphabetical, so scroll down a short ways to find UConn.

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February 18, 2012 at 12:40 AM 

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