That news stunned me. I have to admit I didn’t expect to hear that Paschal Chukwu would leave Providence for anywhere but the NBA. I know there are a lot of people searching for answers and/or trying to make sense out of the decision made by the 7’2 Chukwu. The reality is, like Josh Fortune’s transfer decision a year ago (almost to the day), this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense on it’s face. I’m sure there will be some rumblings and rumors that are shared in the days to come but for Chukwu to walk away from a starting role on a team with Kris Dunn is hard to fathom. Let’s all take some deep breaths and try to figure out what might happen next.
Ironically this makes it easier for Providence to pursue graduate transfer big men. That kind of immediate help is now urgently needed. Prior to Chukwu leaving the Friars were already searching for some frontcourt help to supplement a developing Chukwu. Now that there is a giant void at the center position it might be more appealing to a player looking for a starting job for his final season of collegiate eligibility. Providence expressed interest in Richmond transfer Alonzo Nelson-Ododa last week and Jon Rothstein reported Monday that the Friars will get a visit from Eastern Illinois transfer Chris Olivier. Rothstein also reported that Olivier will visit Oklahoma State on Tuesday. ESPN’s Jeff Borzello added that Olivier’s visit to Friartown will likely take place following the upcoming dead period that lasts from May 21st-May 29th. Borzello also said that Boston College and Memphis are in the mix for the 6’8 245 lb Olivier.
Nelson-Ododa and Olivier would both be fine stop-gap replacements for Chukwu for the 2015-16 season. Beyond that the Friars will likely focus harder on bringing in a big man with the additional scholarship that is now available for the class of 2016. One of the top targets for that spot is likely to be Jordy Tshimanga. Tshimanga attended Providence’s Elite Camp in August 2014 and was matched up against Alex Owens during scrimmage action. The big-bodied southpaw is at the MacDuffie School and runs with Houston Hoops on the Nike EYBL circuit. Some other big man targets in 2016 are Brock Betram, Terrell Brown, Eddie Ekiyor, Tyrique Jones, Sedee Keita and Kassoum Yakwe. The Friars have also made NC State power forward Kyle Washington’s list of 10 schools. Washington would have to sit out the 2015-16 season, per NCAA transfer rules.
Aside from the punch to the gut, the immediate term can be fixed if Ed Cooley is able to bring in a ready-to-go big man for next season. The place where this is likely to hurt most is in 2016-17 and beyond as I believe Chukwu was another year away from breaking out into an all-Big East performer. Chukwu will now spend this in-between year sitting out and gaining valuable weight, something he was already beginning to do at Providence. Chukwu is gone but all hope is not lost. Dunn is back for one more season in the black and white and Cooley and his staff still have some time to patch the frontcourt together for next season. Deep breaths, Friartown. Deep breaths. As Cooley told Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, “Friartown isn’t burning down. We’ll be all right.”
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