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Nova’s 6-11 Ochefu appeared destined for higher calling

Villanova forward Daniel Ochefu dunks as Iowa center

Villanova forward Daniel Ochefu dunks as Iowa center Adam Woodbury looks on during a second-round NCAA Tournament game at Barclays Center on Sunday, March 20. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Villanova center Daniel Ochefu is 6-11 with a reach that makes him seem much taller. Still, at one point, he appeared destined for an even higher calling. There was serious talk about Ochefu becoming a priest.

The talk did not come only from him. “My mom. I think it was a little wishful thinking on her part,” the senior said Friday. “But that’s my mom. I love her. I think she still might have that dream in the back of her mind. I don’t know how I’m going to break it to her.”

Ochefu, who grew up in Baltimore and Nigeria (where the family temporarily moved to get to know his father’s homeland), has NBA aspirations. His 17 points in the Sweet 16 victory over Miami on Thursday will not hurt, and he had 10 points and eight rebounds in Saturday night’s victory over Kansas.

Coach Jay Wright cited Ochefu’s inside presence as an important factor in Villanova’s torrid scoring because he prevents defenses from concentrating solely on outside shooting.

In any case, the big man never entertained the idea of the seminary. “Not even a little bit. You have to be special to be able to do that,” he said. But like his teammates, he has a good relationship with Rev. Rob Hagan, the team chaplain and associate athletic director, who was one of the first people Ochefu’s family met on his recruiting visit.

“Villanova did their homework. They knew my mom is a very religious Catholic. She sat down, had a conversation with him,” he said. “She was sold. Villanova was No. 1 from there.”

Ochefu knew how he will spend Easter Sunday. “I’ll definitely be going home, going to church,” he said. “My mom is probably going to church Saturday and she’ll probably go again Sunday. Hopefully, she’ll cook, so I can get some home cooking.”

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