When there is only only player on the current basketball roster taller than 6'7", a coach is going to be looking for some height so his team can have at least some semblance of a frontcout. Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy did just that last month, adding George Mason transfer Anali Okoloji to the Eagles' roster.
The 6'8", 214 pound power forward will have one year of eligibility left. He will graduate this Spring and will be able to play this upcoming season, which is great news for Eastern Michigan.
This isn't the first transfer for Okoloji. The former two-star recruit and Brooklyn native picked Seton Hall straight out of high school. He only appeared in sixteen games for the Pirates, averaging less that two points per game. George Mason was the next step in his college basketball career, transferring to the school famous for its Final Four run in 2006.
Oddly enough, Okoloji's sophomore year turned out much better than his junior campaign. He averaged twelve minutes, three points and two and a half rebounds in 2012-2013 while last year his averages dipped to eight minutes, two points and two rebounds. It's a little concerning to see such a drop-off in production, and in addition to that he didn't play in the Patriots' last ten games of the season.
Looking at his highlight tape above, a number of things stick out. First, he has quick hands on defense, getting in passing lanes and creating steal and fast break opportunities. His ability to hit deep shots while contested was also impressive, although his career three-point percentage is just 26.3%. Another intangible that can't be forgotten is his big game experience. He's earned playing time against teams like Maryland and Virginia and played well in those games. The Atlantic 10 (GMU's conference) is pretty stacked as well, as they put six teams in the NCAA Tournament this year.
While adding height is important for the Eagles, Okoloji's game resembles a player that is already on the Eagle roster: Karrington Ward. While Ward is a great player, it's hard to play with someone who has the exact same style of play. Okoloji may be asked to play in the post, but that doesn't look like where he excels the most on the basketball court.
Additionally, DePaul transfer Jodan Price will be joining the Eagles roster this year. Price, who also stands 6'7" but only weighs 172 pounds, seems to be a slightly lighter version of Okoloji and Ward. Murphy is also bringing in true freshman Jordan Nobles, a 6'8" 175 pound small forward. Sense a bit of a theme here? That's a lot of 6'7-8" wings on one roster and they all can't play at once.
The one benefit of this is the match-up problems it creates. If Murphy plays three 6'7" wings, opposing post men will have a tough time defending out to the three-point line and could pick up a lot of cheap fouls. However, this hurts when Eastern is on the defensive end, as putting a wing to anchor the middle spot of the 2-3 zone is troublesome.
As the roster stands currently (pun intended), Lekan Ajayi is the tallest player coming in at 6'11". Ajayi averaged just a half of a point per game while playing ten minutes per game. He'll likely be thrust into a starting role replacing Da'Shonte Riley. Certainly Ajayi won't be asked or expected to fill Riley's shoes, but his ability to step into that starting center role will be one of the important storylines of the season.
The Eagles have three scholarships left to give out, so the prototypical big man could still be coming their way. Brandon Nazione, a 6'7" 220 pound JuCo transfer, could be able to fill that spot. If you're counting, that's five 6'7-8" wings that dot the current Eagle roster. Looking forward, the center/power forward position is still a glaring weakness for the Eagles.