Oriakhi will take on different role
Published: Thursday, November 10, 2011
Updated: Friday, November 11, 2011 00:11
Alex Oriakhi begins the 2011 season in an uncertain position. For the first time since he was 14 years old, Oriakhi will be playing on a team without Jamal Coombs-McDaniel.
"I'm not going to lie, it's weird," Oriakhi said. "He's been my roommate since I was 16, so it's like my first time being without him. It's definitely weird but you have to move on. He already knows I hope nothing but the best for him."
Coombs-McDaniel transferred to Hofstra after last season, citing a need for more playing time. He will sit out this season due to NCAA rules and play for the Pride in 2012. Coombs-McDaniel, who was arrested for marijuana possession last April, chose Hofstra over Missouri and Miami. The forward played in all 41 games for the national champions last year, averaging 5.6 points per game. He scored 25 points in a win over Providence. Oriakhi said Coombs-McDaniel is making a fine adjustment without him.
"He said he likes it," Oriakhi said. "He's been working hard. He said he's happy because he has a whole year to get his stuff straight, get his knee better. He should have a good year out there."
Both Oriakhi and Coombs-McDaniel played for the BABC AAU squad coached by Leo Papile and attended the Tilton School in New Hampshire. The Massachusetts natives co-captained Tilton to the 2009 NEPSAC Class B Championships and National Prep School Title before arriving at UConn in fall of that year. After a freshmen season together that ended with a trip to the NIT, the two helped the Huskies to an NCAA national championship as sophomores. Coombs-McDaniel, who did not attend UConn's trip to the White House, has moved on to another school. Oriakhi, the lone upperclassman on scholarship, will have to move on to his junior season.
"It is crazy I am the most experienced," Oriakhi said. "The good thing about it is I have about seven sophomores who experienced it with me so they're going to be right there with me. I feel once you play in the Final Four and the national championship, you've really seen it all, so nothing can really get you now. All you have to do is go out there and play basketball."
Oriakhi, who averaged 9.6 points and 8.7 rebounds last season, had 11 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in the Huskies' 53-41 win over Butler in the title game. Now he's the face of UConn basketball, appearing on most posters and promos across the state.
"It definitely weird," Oriakhi said. "I'm always used to seeing Kemba's face or Jerome [Dyson] or Stanley [Robinson] because I've been here. To have my face on there, it's a little surprising, I'm not going to lie."
Oriakhi, along with Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb, will have to step up and lead the Huskies this season.
"I would think Jeremy, Shabazz and Alex [are our leaders]," Calhoun said.
"The personalities become so different, it's really hard to judge the personalities," Calhoun added. "They each have their own way of leading, part of our job is to make sure they lead in the right way. Criticizing a teammate after a coach has yelled at them is not leadership. Getting on a guy, when we don't see a move, he didn't screen, we couldn't see it, we were blocked out, that's an entire different story. That's barking at a guy to get it going."
Although Oriakhi is expected to be barking at his teammates, one thing he refuses to do is brag to all the former UConn players who came up short in the NCAA tournament.
"Roscoe [Smith] did it to Hasheem [Thabeet] but I'm not bragging," Oriakhi said. "I know just how hard it was to get there. We had a special year so I'm definitely not bragging."