- Kieran Darcy, ESPNNewYork.com
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NEW YORK -- St. John's sophomore center Chris Obekpa, who led the Big East in blocked shots the last two seasons, has been granted a release by the school to pursue transfer options or whether to turn pro.
Obekpa is still raw offensively, averaging 3.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in 20.1 minutes per game this season. But he is one of the top shot-blockers in the country. As a freshman, he led the nation at 4.0 blocks per game. This season, he was 19th at 2.9 blocks per game.
He leaves St. John's as its all-time shot-blocker, despite playing just two years there (227 blocks).
Obekpa's departure leaves St. John's perilously thin in the frontcourt. With the graduation of forwards Orlando Sanchez and God'sgift Achiuwa and the early departure of second-leading scorer Jakarr Sampson, the Red Storm have zero returning frontcourt players of note, and no incoming players signed at this time.
St. John's is still in the mix for 6-foot-11 center Adonis Delarosa of Christ the King High School in Queens. Delarosa will announce his decision later this month.
Coach Steve Lavin likely will look to the junior college ranks for short-term help, as well.
Obekpa is the third player to leave St. John's voluntarily in the past two weeks. Sampson is entering the NBA draft despite modest numbers as a sophomore (12.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg). ESPN NBA draft expert Chad Ford currently projects Sampson as the No. 125 prospect this year, meaning it is unlikely Sampson will be drafted at all, let alone in the first round.
Reserve swingman Max Hooper also decided to leave the program and seek to use his remaining college eligibility elsewhere.
Lavin just finished his fourth season at St. John's. He guided the Red Storm to the NCAA tournament in his first year, but they have failed to make it in the three years since.
"We wish Chris good luck as he moves toward his next opportunity," the coach said.
St. John's sophomore center Chris Obekpa is leaving the school after two seasons either to transfer or turn pro, a source close to the program said Thursday.