Wednesday night was the first time I was able to see 2014 big man Paschal Chukwu in person. The game was for the SCC championship and the Jesuits were facing Hillhouse, the team that beat them in overtime in this very game last year. Chukwu scored the first two points for Prep with an impressive right baby hook but his scoring, 18 points in total, the rest of the night would mainly come at the free throw line (4/8 FT) or via dunks (5, including 3 alley oops). He played all 32 minutes and completely shut down any paint shooting from Hillhouse. He blocked 3 shots in the first half and Hillhouse really didn’t attempt to even shoot inside the free throw line while Chukwu was protecting the rim. I had his total for blocks plus shots altered at 8 and that doesn’t include shots not even attempted out of fear of being blocked. Fairfield Prep won the SCC Championship for the first time ever and before the game, Chukwu was named SCC Player of the Year.
Chukwu is athletic and skilled with the ball. He doesn’t panic when double teamed in the post and is a willing and effective passer. He was even used during the press break in the middle of the court. He dunks the ball with authority, nearly tearing down the stanchion on one alley oop. He has the potential for developing a good offensive game and has solid form on his free throws. On the defensive end, the impact will be immediate next season at PC. He is long. He has an instinct for blocking shots and that will be the first thing that translates at the college level. He also was surprisingly good at hedging on high ball screens.
Besides his still developing offensive game, he lacks a certain explosiveness. He struggled going after rebounds outside his area and got pushed around a bit by players that were 8 inches shorter than him. Strength will be the biggest key in his development at PC. He needs to gain 30-50 lbs during his 4 years as a Friar to really be able to take advantage of his length and size against college players.
While his offensive game is still a work in progress and his body needs to add some mass, the clay model is there. He clearly has all the tools to be molded and shaped into a dominant big man. While the form on his shot and rotation of the ball is solid, he needs to get the ball out of his palm a bit and work on his wrist angle to get more consistency. His passing ability and soft hands will serve him well and are positive signs that his offensive game can grow into what his overall potential advertises. He also showed that he does have good footwork on the block and he showed flashes of a low post game to go along with his thunderous dunks. He was more athletic on defense than I expected him to be away from the basket and really impressed me with hedging ball screens against quick Hillhouse guards. However, he seemed to have a hard time chasing long rebounds from jumpers and while his change of direction was good for a man of his size, he seemed to lack some explosion. I can see the potential for getting into foul trouble early in his career as he is clearly still learning how to play at a high level in his body. Overall, its obvious for anyone watching him play that Paschal Chukwu has a very bright future. Coach Cooley will get him in to see Coach White early and often when he arrives on campus, likely in the summer, to start to get him bigger and stronger and more capable of playing in the Big East.
The outlook is obviously very good for Chukwu. You just cannot teach his kind of size and length. He has a ways to go to be the kind of player he looks like he can become but ultimately, I think he will end up having an excellent Friar career and I can see him leading the Big East in blocks more than once. As for what I think he will do next season as a Freshman, my prediction is a line something like this:
4 ppg 3 rpg 2 bpg in around 12-15 mpg
He will have the ability to be brought along slowly with PC having the luxury of Senior-to-be Carson Desrosiers next season.