Sports

Dunphy on Enechionyia: ‘He’s going to have to set our path’

This offseason, the junior forward worked on adding more weapons to his already versatile game.

Obi Enechionyia leaned back in his chair and paused for a moment as he tried to think of someone he models his game after.

The junior forward had been asked the question many times before, but he couldn’t think of anyone. After giving himself a moment to consider it again, Enechionyia still didn’t have an answer.

“I never really know who to say because there’s no one specific player that I look at,” Enechionyia said at the American Athletic Conference’s media day. “I try to take skills from a lot of different players.”

Enechionyia is a 6-foot-10-inch forward who possesses uncommon abilities for players his size. His jump shot is smooth. He’s spent hours and hours in empty gyms trying to perfect it. Last year, he shot better than 38 percent from 3-point range, which ranked 10th in the American Athletic Conference.

“I don’t think I’ve had someone work on their shooting technique more than Obi,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “He’s really put a lot of time and effort into it.”

Enechionyia is also very athletic. He has the ability to get out and run and guard out on the perimeter.

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Junior forward Obi Enechionyia drives to the basket in last season’s 66-65 loss to St. Joseph’s at the Liacouras Center on Dec. 13, 2015. GENEVA HEFFERNAN FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

“Any big man that can shoot the ball and rebound and is athletic enough to get down the court is a problem for any team,” said Houston senior guard Damyean Dotson.

Enechionyia averaged 11 points and 3.8 rebounds per game last year. After a strong finish to his freshman season, Enechionyia started last year by spraining his ankle and missing Temple’s season opener against the University of North Carolina.

He only missed one game, but the injury persisted throughout the season, hurting his consistency. Enechionyia had games like his 25-point, 13-rebound performance against St. Joseph’s and his career-high 26-point effort against Houston. He also posted a few duds, scoring just two points five times.

Enechionyia went 2-of-7 from the field for four points in Temple’s 72-70 overtime loss to the University of Iowa in the NCAA tournament.

“Defense, rebounding, scoring, I wasn’t myself,” Enechionyia said.

“We don’t talk about it much, but I know we all remember it and we all think about it a lot, so we’re all using it as motivation,” Enechionyia added. “Now that we know what it’s like to get to the tournament, we just want to get back.”

Enechionyia went into last year hoping to become “the shooter” for the Owls. He hit a corner 3-point shot to seal the Owls’ 83-79 win against Tulsa and knocked down a long-range shot from the top of the key to tie the game with less than a minute to go in the Houston win. He finished the year second on the team in 3-pointers made and 3-point field goal percentage.

This offseason Enechionyia worked on expanding his game. He practiced shooting off the dribble and becoming more comfortable in the low post. Dunphy wants the forward to be a playmaker wherever he is on the floor.

“This is his turn to arrive now,” Dunphy said.  “He’s going to have to set our path as a basketball program this year.”

On defense, Enechionyia will use his unique blend of skills to guard multiple positions. He’ll defend bigger, stronger players in the post and smaller, quicker players out on the wing.

Enechionyia will also be forced into a larger role rebounding the basketball this year with the departure of Jaylen Bond, who led the team in rebounding last year.

“I’m definitely going to have to do a lot more,” Enechionyia said. “The last two years I haven’t really haven’t been much of a rebounder. I know without Jaylen, someone has to step up and I’m going to try and make that myself.”

Owen McCue can be reached at owen.mccue@temple.edu or on Twitter at @Owen_McCue.

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