What is Arizona is Getting in Zeke Nnaji?

Recruiting
Minnesota

Posted On: 11/23/18 1:31 PM

About an hour ago Arizona received a committed from Hopkins forward Zeke Nnaji, the 26th ranked player in the entire 2019 class of talent.  What did Arizona land with Zeke's commitment?  Prep Hoops breaks it down. 

What is your college projection of Zeke Nnaji?

"I expect Zeke Nnaji to be the type of player that instantly impacts the game as a freshman. I foresee Zeke putting up solid numbers immediately working in as a double figure point producing role guy working for most production off ball and then every year growing more and more as a go to player in the post. By the time Zeke is a senior I foresee a player that threatens teams with his back to the basket, facing up attacking both ways to complete, and hitting shots with range. I see a guy that plays in three or four NCAA Tournaments helping his team make a couple big runs while also finishing with a strong mark on the record books in career numbers."

What is your year 1 projection – taking Arizona’s depth chart into consideration?

To set the scene real quick, Arizona returns no starters from 2017-18 and several of the recruits that were expected to join the team this year decided to go to other programs because of the Arizona FBI investigation into the program's illegal recruiting.  The Wildcats put this year's team together by adding some graduate transfers and talking Brandon Williams back into playing for the program.  Arizona's leading returning scorer for this season was junior Dylan Smith who scored 4.3 points a contest as a sophomore.  The Wildcats are 4-2 right now with three wins over small conference teams, a win over Iowa State, and double figure losses to top ten teams Gonzaga and Auburn. 

The point of all that?  Zeke Nnaji has a very strong chance to start on day one and we will go as far as saying he should be expected to start from day one.  The Wildcats currently have the number one ranked recruiting class in the nation that includes a guard/wing group that is sensational.  Nnaji and fellow freshman recruit Christian Koloko (ranked 85th in the nation) should be the starters up front next year.  The current frontcourt producers Chase Jeter and Ryan Luther are both seniors so nearly a full game's worth of time will be available to Zeke on day one of his career. 

What changed about his game enabling his stock to rise over the last year?

"For me there are two things (the two biggest things) that changed with Zeke: 1) he physically grew about two inches from the start of high school season through the end of 17 and Under play (with D1 Minnesota) plus the weightroom work made him stronger, and 2) Zeke followed a strong high school season by blending in with the vast talent of D1 Minnesota to make that program with one of the elite 17u teams in the country. With D1 Minnesota ball movement and activity off the ball were the core of the team success and Zeke took that theme and ran with it. Nnaji was a constant on backside putback opportunities, he ran the floor as hard as any player in the nation taking advantage of the great passing on this team, and working within the offensive framework Nnaji’s activity constantly put himself in position to score off post touches, basket cuts, and isolation chances. Nnaji not only used his skill to produce points but also recorded numbers with constant effort plays.

How would you rate the competition he faces in high school?

Hopkins High School is widely regarded as the top big school program in the state of Minnesota the last 20 seasons. They have won seven state titles since the turn of the century. They play in the most talented conference in the state of Minnesota (one that commonly has a D1 signed or offered player on nearly every team in the league) plus the Hopkins schedule commonly includes the best teams in the state outside of the conference. This year Nnaji and Hopkins will play the following prospects: Top 50 2020 talent Ben Carlson and top 25 2021 talent Kendall Brown of East Ridge, 3-star Wisconsin signed Tyler Wahl and his Lakeville North team, 5-star 2020 Jalen Suggs and his Minnehaha Academy team, high major offered 2021 Treyton Thompson and his Alexandria team, DeLaSalle who has 4-star Tyrell Terry committed to Stanford, Eden Prairie and Edina who have D1 offered 2020 players, and a couple teams from Wisconsin and Illinois.

What part of his game needs the most development?

Zeke has taken big steps as a defender away from the basket but at the highest level of college basketball he will be asked to move his feet with faster players meaning footwork and positioning defending ball screens will need to improve. Also, Nnaji is good in the low post but he will need to add to his low post arsenal to beat the best bigs in college basketball. Finally, Nnaji is really good hitting shots from mid-range but as he continues to increase his range, Zeke’s percentages have to grow with it. 

***This was originally done for a major site on the 247 Network but Zeke's decision to go to Arizona left this article pointless at the site it was written for.  I made a few changes and posted it here.