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Obekpa, one of nation’s top shot blockers, transfers to UNLV

The 6-foot-10 forward from St. John’s will sit out one season and then have one year of eligibility remaining

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Associated Press

St. John’s forward Chris Obekpa (12) blocks a layup by Minnesota forward Maurice Walker in the second half of a game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. St. John’s defeated Minnesota 70-61.

It’s perhaps not coincidental that St. John’s shot blocker Chris Obekpa, who’s famous in certain corners for his short shorts worn last season, announced his transfer to UNLV on Wednesday morning with an Instagram photo of Hey Reb in similarly revealing garb. And even if it is the Rebels will have some short shorts ready regardless.

Obekpa, a native of Nigeria listed at 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds, was in Las Vegas on an official visit when he committed to UNLV. He will sit out the 2015-16 season and have one year of eligibility remaining.

Over three seasons at St. John’s with coach Steve Lavin, Obekpa never averaged more than six points or less than 2.9 blocks, and his yearly block percentage ranked first, third and 13th in the country, according to kenpom.com. He was a defensive force from the time he stepped on campus and has showed flashes of very efficient offense, like shooting 61 percent in conference play as a sophomore, but for his career Obekpa has shot 49 percent on 2-point field goals and 44.9 percent at the free-throw line.

In March, St. John’s lost to San Diego State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament but Obekpa didn’t attend. He was suspended for reportedly failing a drug test.

Obekpa had originally planned to transfer from St. John’s after his sophomore season but instead elected to stay. In June, Obekpa told new coach Chris Mullin that he was transferring, and he left with school records for most blocks in a single game (11), season (133) and career (321).

Obekpa fills UNLV’s final scholarship, so barring any unforeseen changes the lineup is set. That also means that commit Justin Jackson is expected to remain in the class of 2016.

Here’s how the roster breaks down by class:

Seniors

Ike Nwamu

Chris Obekpa (redshirting)

Jerome Seagears

Juniors

Tyrell Bellot-Green

Ben Carter

Daquan Cook

Sophomores

Jordan Cornish

Pat McCaw

Dwayne Morgan

Goodluck Okonoboh

Freshmen

Derrick Jones

Jalen Poyser

Stephen Zimmerman

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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