DePaul's Oliver Purnell on Daniel Ochefu: "He's a prospect for the NBA"

USA TODAY Sports

That and more notes from today's Big East Teleconference

At first it was a thought, but now it's known conference wide: Daniel Ochefu is turning heads in the Big East.

Coaches have started to watch Ochefu closer since the beginning of conference play, one being DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell. And Purnell made it clear about Ochefu's ceiling for the next level, he's in the minds of scouts and he's a legitimate NBA prospect.

"Ochefu was kind of raw coming into the year, but you can't say that about him anymore," Purnell said Wednesday afternoon during the Big East Conference's teleconference with the league's coaches.

"He can draw double teams, he can score and he's a good passer. If I were to pick a guy it would be Ochefu in terms of improvement. He is a load [to deal with] now. He certainly is a prospect for the NBA. I'm sure NBA scouts are watching all of his games on tape. He could be a tenured guy if he gets with the right team."

VU Hoops learned at the beginning of Big East conference play that Ochefu could have the team's highest NBA upside, and since then he hasn't disappointed. The 6-foot-11, 245-pounder is averaging 5.8 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds per contest while piling on 37 blocks this season.

The Baltimore, Maryland native also leads the Big East in field goal percentage, shooting a whopping 80.5 percent from inside the arc. But while Purnell and scouts alike have been surprised by Ochefu's play as of late, one coach wasn't as impressed.

Georgetown head coach John Thompson III, listed the reasons for Ochefu and senior James Bell's improvement is due to a player's yearly "progression," not a major improvement worthy of some hardware at the end of the season.

"I'm not surprised about what [they] are doing," Thompson said during the teleconference. "I guess that's a compliment more than anything else. That's just progression on their part."

Coaches think Providence's Bryce Cotton is "under-appreciated".

If not for Doug McDermott, the Big East would be a completely different conference in 2013-2014.

McDermott, Creighton's preseason All-American, has turned heads by improving his game during his senior year and is bringing more publicity to a conference that many believed may lose it's appeal. But while the spotlight has been on the Big East all season, one of the key things that makes the conference strong - each team's brilliant guard play - has majorly gone unnoticed.

Players like Georgetown's Markel Starks, Xavier's Semaj Christon or even Seton Hall's Sterling Gibbs have provided a high level of guard play all season in what Xavier's Chris Mack referred to as "the NCAA's third best conference." But among the stellar play from the point position, Bryce Cotton, Providence's point-man, has stood out the most.

So much so that Head Coach Ed Cooley spoke out on the exact issue.

"Bryce is the most under appreciated guard and arguably the best guard in college basketball," Cooley said during Wednesday's Big East Teleconference.

"For what he's done and how he's done it, I think he leads the NCAA in minutes played. I don't think he's getting the national attention that he's earned. I think McDermott is the player of the year in college, but we have the most valuable player in the country in Bryce. I don't know how his name isn't brought up every single day."

And for what it's worth, Cooley could be right. Cotton leads the Big East in minutes played (988), free throws made (146), assists (145), and is second in the conference in scoring behind McDermott, averaging 21.2 points per contest.

In a 30-point setback to Villanova in January, Cotton dropped 25 points and had six assists and six rebounds while blowing by every Wildcat guard that checked him. St. John's Head Coach Steve Lavin, who Cotton dropped 32 points, four rebounds and six assists on last week, said he reminds him of an old NBA player.

"Bryce Cotton reminds me of player's I have great respect for, one being Eddie House," Lavin said on Wednesday. "I think it's the ability to playmake and shot make. He wants the ball in crunch time. While he puts up big numbers, he distributes as well. With Cotton, not only is he a prolific scorer he distributes the ball and plays the right way."

While the numbers support Cotton, the country has it's eyes on Creighton's superb senior. But Thompson III, Georgetown's head coach, still has respect for Cotton. Especially after their last meeting with Providence.

"We played Providence the other day and with six minutes left in the first half he had 0 points," Thompson III said. "At halftime he had 19. If it weren't for Doug McDermott, there would be more talk about Cotton."

Notes

  • St. John's Steve Lavin on the importance of seniors in the college basketball, one being James Bell: "There's no doubt that seniors provide the stability and leadership that's a vital part of having success at the highest levels of college basketball. Older players can share from their prior experiences, there's no doubt that when you have the luxury of upperclassmen it goes a long way of winning games and sustaining a level of success."
  • Butler's Brandon Miller on his team's 2-10 record in the Big East: "We are taking each game as they come and our focus since day one is continuing to improve. We are focusing on what we haven't done well and have done well. Our guys come into practice with hard hats on and they know what they have done wrong and well. I give a lot of credit to our locker room to how we approach practice and how we approach games."
  • Jay Wright on what the Wildcats have most improved on:  "I don't know if it's one area, we were playing good defense early in the year and we had some slippage in the middle of the year rebounding but we got better offensively. I think we are gradually getting there."
  • Providence's Ed Cooley on the middle of the league making a tournament run:  "you see how well St. John's is playing and they started slow and Georgetown and Marquette, some teams start off slow, I think that's the balance of the league. The next week is important for teams that want those three, four, five spots. It's the parity of our league. It's fun."
  • Creighton's Greg McDermott on Villanova and the atmosphere in their home arena: "It will be incredible and it will be sold out like all of our league games have been. I expect something similar to our first big east game against Marquette."
  • Extended: DePaul's Oliver Purnell on matchup with Villanova: "Villanova is every bit as good as Creighton, we are obviously glad we are at home but no team has played more consistently than them. Their starting lineup doesn't have a weakness there, especially with Daniel Ochefu. They hurt you in transition. If it's close in the 2nd half we have to make the plays to stay in the game.
  • "I don't think you can look ahead. Villanova being the 6th ranked team in the country is a challenge," Purnell said
  • "You can't give a team like Villanova a lot of easy baskets. You gotta make it tough for them. We have got to be consistent on the defensive end. A part of our good defense is taking care of the ball on offense. When you turn it over to Villanova it ignites the best part of their game, and that's when they run," Purnell said


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