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Sean Morrison | The Journal Gazette
Goodluck Okonoboh has improved his offense but excels at blocking shots.

Tall recruit measures self by effort

IU is among many suitors for 6-10 native of Boston

– Goodluck Okonoboh doesn’t care how significant – or, in this case, insignificant – a game is.

He wants to win.

Okonoboh, a top-10 basketball player in the class of 2014, was visibly upset after a pool-play loss Thursday at the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis.

That competitive streak, mixed with a strong work ethic and a 6-foot-10 frame, has put Okonoboh high on Indiana’s wish list for the 2014 class.

“It’s draining, but you gotta play through it,” Okonoboh said after his third game in two days. “Winning is always important, but effort is what’s really important. If we don’t give effort and we lost, then I won’t sleep at night. But if we give effort and we lost, then there are some things you just gotta live with.”

The Hoosiers are one of many to offer Okonoboh, who plays on the AAU summer circuit with Mass Rivals. The Boston native has scholarships on the table from Duke, Louisville, Syracuse, Connecticut and Maryland, among others. Kentucky is also interested but has yet to offer.

As he enters his final year of high school, Okonoboh is letting the recruiting process play itself out.

“I have no favorites,” he said. “When I go on my visits, I’m gonna see how the players play every day and just see how the coaches work with the players from a developmental standpoint. Developmental is very key.”

Okonoboh wants to reach the NBA – just as fellow Massachusetts native Nerlens Noel did this season. Former Mass Rivals teammate Noah Vonleh, who is now at IU, could join the pro ranks after this season as well.

Okonoboh has used his connection to Vonleh to help prepare for the collegiate level. That friendship could help the Hoosiers’ chances with Okonoboh, too.

“He said it’s not a joke out there – nothing compared to high school, every day,” Okonoboh said. “Three times a day, sometimes two times a day. Watch out for him this year. … You think it’s gonna be like, you know, you’re just gonna just walk through things, get on the court – no. You’ve gotta work really hard for it.”

Whichever college he chooses, Okonoboh is prepared to put in that work.

He is seen by analysts as the best shot-blocker in the country regardless of class, and he has improved steadily on offense in the past year.

Okonoboh still struggles with free throws, as he showed at the invitational. But the effort he brings to the game and the potential he has made him a showstopper in Indy.

Win or lose.

“I just gotta live for the moment, work hard every day,” he said. “It gives me a chance to showcase my hard work and show people that I’m one of the top players in the country.”

smorrison@jg.net

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