An elite athlete standing 6 feet 9 inches, Ekene Ibekwe has been an intriguing project from the moment he stepped onto the floor at Maryland. Unfortunately, he remains little more than that headed into his final season at College Park. Ibekwe has managed to add a good amount of bulk over the past three years and certainly has the physical attributes to play power forward in the NBA. He runs the floor like a deer, while his length and quick reaction time allow him to make an impact as a shot blocker. Ibekwe's body type and athletic gifts would seem to put him in that face up 4 development mold, but he has never added any sort of offensive polish, still struggling with poor hands and the inability to finish anything that isnt a dunk. He doesnt look comfortable when he does get the ball in the post, and isnt aware of what help defenders are doing around him. Ibekwes footwork and post moves are adequate at best, and he rarely converts anything that is well-contested.
The offensive struggles wouldnt be a problem if Ibekwe made up for it by excelling in a Ben Wallace sort of role, as he is certainly athletic and strong enough to do just that. However, Ibekwe often plays tentatively and clearly doesnt relish contact in the paint. When it comes to making hustle plays, Ibekwe just isnt enough of a consistent presence around the basket to make up for his offensive shortcomings. To truly reach his full potential, it will be the mental side of the game that he will have to make the most strides in, as he lacks a great feel for the game and reportedly does not bring a great effort to practice on a daily basis. There are moments when everything comes together and he dominates the interior for stretches, but consistency is a major issue. Ibekwe still has problems with foul trouble, and has a tendency to disappear if things arent going his way. The reality is that Ibekwe has problems with players weaker than him at the college level. What happens when he gets to the NBA and he is going up against stronger big men on a nightly basis?
That being said, Ibekwe is a special athletic specimen who will get every chance in the world to prove he belongs in the NBA. He had an impressive showing at the World Basketball Championship playing for Nigeria, particularly in one spectacular outing matching up with Dirk Nowitzki, and will get plenty of touches this season with a big group of Maryland seniors graduating last spring. Maryland really needs a bounce-back season, and Ibekwe will have to be a big part of any return trip to the dance. If the draft was tomorrow he probably wouldnt hear his name called, but Ekene Ibekwe is certainly one to keep an eye on over the course of the season.