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Paschal Chukwu shows early improvement in healthy season for Syracuse

first_imgThe excuses exist for Paschal Chukwu. He started his organized basketball career in the United States four years before college. He played limited minutes at Providence as a freshman. He sat out nearly two seasons after arriving at Syracuse.“At the end of the day you just gotta play,” Chukwu said. “Yeah, I sat out two years and all that. But at the same time, I worked out every day at practice. So when I step out there, I know what to do … I’m not using it as an excuse.”Chukwu, a 7-foot-2 center for No. 15 Syracuse (2-0), is coming off one of the best games in his college career. In the Orange’s 84-70 win over Morehead State, Chukwu racked up 14 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks. It was the senior’s seventh double-digit scoring game, fourth double-double, and third game with six-plus blocks in his time at Syracuse. As Syracuse heads into matchups with two high-major teams in Madison Square Garden on back-to-back days, there’s a higher belief in Chukwu than there was last year.“I felt like last year he was still trying to find himself on the basketball court,” sophomore forward Oshae Brissett said. “He’s been putting in a lot of work. I see him before and after practice, with the coaches, asking questions. Just different mindset, different approach to the game.”After Syracuse’s victory over MSU, head coach Jim Boeheim said Chukwu has been putting himself into better position for rebounds.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textLess than two minutes into the game, Buddy Boeheim shot a 3 from the right corner. Chukwu ran straight to the left block in transition. Anticipating a rebound on the opposite side of the shooter, Chukwu pushed the man boxing him out underneath the rim. So when Buddy’s shot bounced to the left block, Chukwu stood alone, his long arms in the air to put the ball back in with his left hand.Two minutes later, Tyus Battle received an inbound pass in the left corner while Chukwu sprinted toward the right block. Battle rose up, mirroring the previous play, as Chukwu pushed his defender underneath the rim. The rebound again bounced to the far side, where Chukwu was positioned on the right block, and he finished the simple putback. In the last two and a half minutes of the game, Chukwu crashed the lane, slipped past his defender and snatched a Buddy runner miss. He turned and flung up a small hook shot with his right hand to give him his 13th and 14th points.“He didn’t play his first year, sat out a year, got hurt, last year was his first year playing,” Boeheim said. “This is his second, to me. He’s doing some things better. He’s closing on the ball better.”Laura Angle | Digital Design EditorOn two of Chukwu’s seven offensive rebounds, he immediately rose to the hoop and drew a foul. Last season, Chukwu shot 63.2 percent from the line. But on Saturday, after the first offensive board in the second half, Chukwu made the pair. Then on the second, he converted on both again. He hit another to make it five in a row, but made just one of his last three after going 2-6 against Eastern Washington. His streaky shooting from the line still remains. Chukwu showed his faults on four personal fouls against Morehead State. He committed three offensive fouls — one on a push off in the post, another on an illegal screen and a final one going up for a rebound — all in the first half. He added his fourth when he closed out too hard on a guard attempting a floater. While he blocked the shot clean up high, his legs hit the player because of Chukwu’s aggressive closeout.Although in that moment Chukwu fouled, protecting the rim is still what he does best for Syracuse. Brissett said the center is rotating better to provide help during defensive rotations. Chukwu knows that “being a defensive stopper” is one of his strengths. Once rotating to protect the rim, Chukwu gets to do one of his favorite things on the basketball court.“When you spike it, I like that one,” Chukwu said. “When I spike it, oh man. That one fills me up with energy.” Comments Published on November 13, 2018 at 9:05 pm Contact Billy: [email protected] | @Wheyen3 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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