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Villanova: Look for Daniel Ochefu to break out next season

If Daniel Ochefu can bring it all together, he has a chance, in 2014-15, to prove why he was a highly regarded recruit out go high school.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

Daniel Ochefu is a player that came to Villanova with high hopes as the 42nd best player in the Class of 2012. Two seasons into his Wildcat career, he has not exactly lived up to expectations.

There have been flashes at certain points that point back to his ability as Top 50 recruit, but he has not been able to put it all together on a consistent basis.

One thing he does do extremely well is defend the paint. He's a bona fide rim protector, really the only one on the Villanova Wildcats that has marked off the paint as "his house," and has put "protecting my house" on his basketball to-do list.  On a national level, he's not a "prolific" shot blocker (tied for 119th nationally) but at 1.53 blocks per game, he's the best by far on Villanova's roster as James Bell was second last season with 0.6 blocks per game.

Even beyond the blocks that show up on the stat sheet, Ochefu affects the shot. When he does not make contact with the ball or get credited for a block, he manages to force the opposing player to change his shot motion in order to avoid getting blocked. Even though this attribute doesn't show up in a stat line, it cannot be overstated and ignored, and it's a valuable asset that may be the most Ochefu's most developed trait so far.

The offensive end is a different story. So far in college, Ochefu has in no way what I would call a threat to score. His career high for scoring average in a season came in his most recent campaign, with a measly 5.7 points per game. If you added up his scoring averages from his first two years at Villanova, it still would not reach double digits.

When it comes to this lack of offensive production, you cant blame his shooting percentage from the field. Last season, Ochefu improved his accuracy from the field by over 15 percent and finished the season shooting almost 60 percent from the field (59.4 percent to be exact).

The problem lies more in the fact that he is not shooting the ball very often. He only took 3.8 attempts every game last season, and that was still an increase of almost one from his freshman season.

I think when it comes down to it, two aspects come into play here: the first is his range. Ochefu is probably the only true big guy to get any type of playing time for Villanova, because JayVaughn Pinkston plays more on the high post and mid-range area. Therefore, if you take him outside of the inner key, he is not extremely comfortable shooting it. If you look at most of his shots from last season, and this contributes a lot to his high shooting percentage, but many of them came from his teammates setting him up near the hoop or put-backs. He needs to find more of an ability to create away from the rim and really create his own shot all together. This inability to shoot from the mid-range and beyond is also reflected in his brutal free-throw percentage. Last season, Ochefu only shot 59.4 percent from the charity stripe and that was somehow a welcomed sight after shooting under 46 percent his freshman year.

The second aspect is the multitude of capable scorers on Villanova's roster. Last season alone, three players averaged over 14 points (Bell, Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard) and another one, Ryan Arcidiacono, averaged just under 10. Out of the regular starting five, Ochefu far and away was the least prolific scorer, and was more than five points on average behind Arcidiacono. Now, you add Josh Hart to the rotation, and he will essentially fill most of the scoring load left by Bell.

So, with all this in consideration, it's difficult to see where Ochefu is going to get increased touches with all this capable scoring around him.

One thing that he does have going for him on the offensive end is his ball-handling ability. For a big guy, he has fantastic handles, especially in the open court, earning him the reputation of somewhat of a "point forward." He's even known to lead some fast breaks.

Going along with the "point forward" moniker, Ochefu is also an extremely gifted passer for a big man. He has great vision and even had six assists during a conference game against the Seton Hall Pirates last season. Even though, at times, he struggles to create his own shot, he's shown a serious knack creating for others, especially with his passes from the post.

On that note though, one thing the big man really struggled with, much like many guards, is turnovers. Last season, the big man averaged nearly two turnovers per game, which was second on the team behind only Hilliard. At times the ball seems to get lost in the post and Ochefu tries to do too much, resulting in costly mistakes. He needs to learn how to make better decisions and bring this number down, because it's increased since his freshman season.

Going into next season, there should be a lot for Villanova fans to be excited about in regards to Ochefu. This will be his second season earning starter's minutes, so any possible jitters or feelings that he didn't belong in the starting lineup that may have existed last season are gone. Plus, Ochefu is still an extremely raw talent, and his numbers already went up from his freshman to sophomore season in five major categories, so he's always finding ways to improve.

If he finds a way to put everything together as a junior, there's no reason he shouldn't have a breakout season in 2014.