Tough Night for Big Frank
You had to feel for O'Connell center Frank Ben-Eze last night. The 6-foot-10 Nigerian has obviously made a quick impression in his few months in the U.S. Maryland, Georgetown and Virginia were the schools recruiting him the hardest, with Clemson also in the mix.
So Maryland Coach Gary Williams and assistant Chuck Driesell go to last night's game at Gonzaga to watch Ben-Eze. But Ben-Eze picked up his second foul in the game's second minute and went to the bench for the rest of the half. Ben-Eze returned to the court in the third quarter only to pick up two more fouls in less than three minutes and head back to the sideline. His line for the night: No points and one rebound in less than 10 minutes in a 66-45 victory.
Several opposing coaches have raved about "Big Frank." Another observer with an eye for judging talent thinks Ben-Eze might be in over his head at a top ACC or Big East school. Last night was my first time seeing Ben-Eze play and I left the gym with no idea how good Ben-Eze is.
Before the game, O'Connell Coach Joe Wootten said that Ben-Eze has made significant progress since his arrival over the summer. "He's only played basketball for two years," Wootten said. "He's still learning all the little things in the game. He told me the competition is a lot stiffer here, so he's had to make some adjustments for that. The potential is there. He's very coachable. He plays very hard and has a great nose for the ball in terms of rebounding. And he's a strong kid."
It was an interesting crowd last night at Gonzaga. Attendance was sparse enough that Gonzaga did not have to open the bleachers behind team benches. But, as one of my friends put it, all the "basketball geeks" were there. Consider this guest list: Williams and Driesell; George Mason assistant James Johnson; Penn State assistant Hilliary Scott; the two biggest travel-team honchos in town, Curtis Malone of D.C. Assault and Rob Jackson of the D.C. Blue Devils; Jim Quinn and Dennis Marshall of dcmetronoops.net, who apparently soon will be the subject of a City Paper story. (Marshall's son, Kendall, is a freshman guard starting for O'Connell.) Godwin Owinje of Radarhoops International, who helped bring Ben-Eze and two other Nigerians to the Washington area this year, also was at Gonzaga, as was Ugo Udezue, director of basketball for agent Bill Duffy's organization and noted local follower Steve McCaskill. Last but not least, longtime local football coach Maus Collins had a courtside seat. Quite a crowd, indeed.
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