Stony Brook Men’s Basketball freshman forward Anthony Ochefu had a shortlist of three or four schools he was considering committing to when he came to Stony Brook University for a tour in the fall of 2016. A couple of days later, that list dwindled to one.
“[Stony Brook head coach Jeff] Boals told me one line,” Ochefu said. “It was he doesn’t want to have to coach someone who wants to be pushed. He compared it to a wheelbarrow and I took that into consideration and put a lot of thought into that. Leading up to coming here I realized I’ve been pushed pretty much my whole life. I wanted that to change a little bit.”
The West Chester, Pennsylvania native adjusted his offseason preparation accordingly heading into his freshman year as a Seawolf. To acclimate to the higher level of competition, Ochefu spent many hours in the gym with his older brother Daniel, a former NCAA champion with Villanova in 2016 who currently plays professionally for the Maine Red Claws in the NBA G-League. His drive to improve has paid off so far, and Boals has taken note.
“I love his upside,” Boals said. “From the jump he made from day one until now, I’m excited to see him progress. He’s an energy guy, he can rebound the basketball, he can hit the three. I’ve been really impressed with his growth and development so far.”
Before coming to Stony Brook, Ochefu attended Westtown High School, where he played under men’s basketball coach Seth Berger. Berger has known Anthony since he was seven years old and says that he has always been a hard worker.
“For every kid, the light bulb turns on at a different time,” Berger said. “ I think for Anthony, the light bulb turned on somewhere in his junior year. The growth that I saw from him in his junior year into his senior year was really significant.”
In order to make an impact at the college level, Ochefu understands that he must continue to grow. It will not be easy to crack Stony Brook’s starting lineup, but he is up for the challenge.
“I know I have two seniors in my position. I want to push them as much as they’re pushing me. I’m just trying to do my best with every possession. Coach has really [encouraged] me to use my motor, be high energy and just be aggressive on every possession.”
Daniel Ochefu has echoed that encouragement to his younger brother, who now starts on a path that he hopes will end in a second Ochefu winning an NCAA championship. Before Anthony left for school, Daniel offered his brother advice.
“Just work hard every day because you never know what could happen,” Daniel said. “He could play a little bit his first year, but that can change quickly and go from playing a little bit to playing a lot. I told him ‘Just always be ready. Whenever coach calls your name, give him a reason to keep calling it.’”
Ochefu’s name may get called often if he can replicate the style of Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson, whose game he has been studying. He admires the way Thompson gives his teammates extra space to make plays and uses his motor to rebound balls. Ochefu sees himself as someone who can do the same for the Seawolves.
“I think it’s a great comparison,” Berger said. “I think it shows an incredible amount of maturity in Anthony to know that what he does really well is what his team is going to need him to do really well. Most freshman in college, if you ask them who they play like, would say Lebron James or Kevin Durant. What Anthony has already figured out is that he wants to make a big difference at Stony Brook and play professional basketball someday. The things that he should do well are rebound, finish around the rim, run the floor, and play extremely hard.”
Ochefu has already developed some of these skills and intends to make them visible when he gets the opportunity to showcase them.
“I think what I can really contribute to this team and how I can really stand out is my rebounding,” Ochefu said. “I would say, right now, I think I have the best motor on the team. Just being a good team rebounder and helping lead the team in rebounding is where I can really help.”
With senior forward Tyrell Sturdivant finding success beyond the three-point line, Boals may opt to play with different lineups. One option for the second-year head coach would be to slide Sturdivant over to the four, potentially freeing up more minutes for Ochefu and senior forward Jakub Petras. If Ochefu stays focused on the little things, he could carve out a role for himself in his first year with the Seawolves.