The Strange and Sad Case of James Okonkwo

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — When Bob Huggins was arrested and forced to resign as the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers, there was a mass exodus of players leaving the program and finding new homes.

One player that left the team shortly after Huggins’ forced resignation was James Okonkwo, a talented 6’8 forward from England. Last season, Okonkwo showed real promise off the bench for the Mountaineers, averaging 2.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game. In addition, Okonkwo led the Mountaineers with 22 total blocks on the season. Although his numbers weren’t spectacular, he was already a defensive force and it was clear that he was the type of player who was ready to make a huge leap for the team the following year.

However, Okonkwo instead chose to transfer to play for the North Carolina Tar Heels. It’s unclear why Okonkow decided to take his talents to Chapel Hill. Perhaps he got a big payday and couldn’t pass up the money. Maybe he felt like he could compete for a national championship at UNC. Or maybe he was drawn to the playing for a team with massive historical success.

But if Okonkwo chose to transfer to North Carolina to improve his chances at playing in the NBA or to get more playing time, he made a grave error. Okonkwo, who would have been a starter or major contributor off the bench this season for the Mountaineers, has only play ten total minutes in five games this season at North Carolina. During those five games, Okonkwo has yet to score and has 3 total rebounds, averaging 0.0 points and 0.6 rebounds per game. He has also not yet blocked a shot for the Tar Heels this season so far.

“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side” certainly applies here. James Okonkwo would have played major minutes for the Mountaineers and would have been an absolute defensive force next to center Jesse Edwards in the West Virginia backcourt. Instead, he sits on the bench at Chapel Hill, undoubtedly pondering the decision he made to leave Morgantown.