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Acquisitions boost St. John’s ahead of basketball training

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Chris Obekpa isn’t making any predictions, but if summer workouts are any indication, St. John’s University will be good this year, the shot-blocking machine said.

Between incoming forwards JaKarr Sampson of Brewster Academy (N.H.) and Orlando Sanchez of JUCO Monroe College, returning guards Phil Greene and D’Angelo Harrison and transfers Jamal Branch of Texas A&M and Harvard sharpshooter Max Hooper, the 6-foot-9 Obekpa has been impressed by his new basketball teammates.

“If we keep working hard, I think we’re going to surprise the country,” the former Our Savior New American standout told the New York Post. “Everybody is tough. I think we can do something great. It’s a great team and the coaches are behind us. They’re doing a great job pushing us.”

The 6-foot-9 Obekpa, who came to New York City from Nigeria two years ago and is known for his rebounding and shot-blocking, chose St. John’s over Cincinnati, Oregon, Connecticut and Providence, and was recently cleared by the NCAA. He chose the Red Storm because of his comfort level with the coaching staff, notably head Coach Steve Lavin and lead recruiter Tony Chiles. Most of all, Obekpa opted for the Red Storm because it was close to home — his New York home, anyway.

Obekpa, scout.com’s 19th-ranked center in the class of 2012, feels he’s ready to contribute right away after a busy summer on the city’s unlimited streetball circuit playing with the Sean Bell All-Stars. He won a title with Coach Raheem “Rah” Wiggins’ team at West 4th Street and played in the Tournament of Champions finals, losing to Sean Bell from Watson.

He went up against former college stars, guys playing professional overseas and even a few NBA players, like MarShon Brooks of the Brooklyn Nets and Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings. He also crossed paths with several former St. John’s players, like Paris Horne, Justin Burrell and Malik Boothe, who all gave him pointers on what to expect at the next level.

“It helped me prepare for the season,” Obekpa said of playing streetball. “Most of these guys graduated from college or are pros. It’s what I’m going to see.”

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