OVERALL GRADE: C+
Points Per Game: 3.2 (8th on the team)
Field Goal Percentage: 51.6 (2nd)
Rebounds Per Game: 3.2 (5th)
Blocks Per Game: 0.5 (4th)
It was a strange 2013-14 season for Ifeanyi Onyekaba. The Nigerian big man started things off with a bang, dropping 21 points and grabbing 10 boards in a 97-77 win over Maine. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a precursor of things to come. Iffy struggled on offense for a majority of the first half of the season, eventually losing his starting role. And that’s right about where we picked up in our mid-season grades.
But in the second half of the season, Ifeanyi settled into his new-found role a little better. It became obvious that despite the season opener, Onyekaba wasn’t going to be a 20/10 guy… at least not this year. Instead, he became the first big man off the bench, charged with getting a few rebounds, banging down low, and taking a few team fouls. Credit Dan Hurley for figuring it out and Iffy himself for the settling into the new role nicely.
The proof is in the stats: a six point, four board performance against UMass at home. A five and five game against Saint Joe’s. And a solid game – probably his best as a role player – against St. Bonaventure. Onyekaba dropped five points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds in 23 minutes in a big URI win. Again, these numbers aren’t headline-worthy, but they’re exactly what you want to see from a big man off the bench. Iffy passed the eye test as well, playing tough without committing dumb fouls and showing improved footwork in the paint.
Just remember that despite his “sophomore” status (thanks, NCAA), it was Ifeanyi’s first year playing collegiate ball. So there’s plenty of room for improvement, especially if he gains a fourth year of eligibility. He’ll be someone to watch next year and beyond – he could be back in a starting role before his time at Rhode Island is over.