A new type of big refills lost size for CSU men’s basketball

Sam Lounsberry

Size matters in basketball.

An obvious statement, but Colorado State basketball fans saw what could happen with a talented front line last year as the 6-foot-7-inch Stanton Kidd and 6-foot-8-inch J.J. Avila, runner-up for the Mountain West Player of the Year in 2015, led the team in scoring en route to 27 wins. 
Tiel Daniels (left) and Emmanuel Omogbo (right) will be expected to anchor Colorado State's front court. (Photo by Emmett McCarthy/Collegian)
Tiel Daniels (left) and Emmanuel Omogbo (right) will be expected to anchor Colorado State’s front court. (Photo by Emmett McCarthy/Collegian)
Kidd and Avila combined for over 28 points per game, and the two showed a versatility possessed by few players with the sheer diversity of their scoring methods. Additionally, Avila led the team in rebounds and steals with 7.5 and 2.0 per game, while Kidd notched 5.1 boards per game, shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc on 92 attempts.
Finding such versatile, big men is never an easy task for a program, and CSU coach Larry Eustachy knows that.
“You’re not going to replace those guys,” Eustachy said Wednesday.
But, that doesn’t mean he can’t come close.
Enter junior college transfer Emmanuel Omogbo, a 6-foot-8-inch true power forward who comes to CSU by way of South Plains College. Joining him as another newcomer likely to see playing time at the forward spot is Kimani Jackson, who also stands at 6-foot-8-inches.
“They’re both more athletic than JJ,” Eustachy said. “Emmanuel is the most athletic guy his size that we’ve had here. And Greg Smith comes to mind, but this guy is a live wire. He could play for most schools in the country.”
With this pair teaming up with returning bruiser Tiel Daniels, who provided much of the brute force down low on the glass last year, CSU might not see too detrimental of a drop from last year’s talented bigs.
But, both Omogbo and Jackson have had to adjust from junior college to Eustachy’s brutal practices and hard-knock personality.
“Coming from junior college, I’m in way better shape since I’ve been here in the summer time,” Omogbo said. “Eustachy pretty much told us, ‘If you come here, this is how we’re going to do things, and you’re either going to go with it or you’re not.’ I’ve been living by the rules so far, just come in everyday and get the job done.”
Jackson missed summer workouts, but Eustachy said he was “pleasantly surprised” with the forward’s physical condition to start the season.
“I was expecting him to be way behind,” Eustachy said.
Though he may have come in ready to run, the redshirt sophomore forward who transferred from New Mexico Junior College is still working on eliminating some of the bad habits Eustachy will not tolerate 10 practices into this season.
“(Kimani) just doesn’t understand what poor body language is,” Eustachy said. “He has done things in 10 days that he’s never done. He bumped his quad, and bumped his knee, normally he would probably not practice, but the culture here is you play through the pain. If you’re hurt, you’re hurt, but when it’s just pain you have to learn how to handle it. He’s got a lot of talent and he’s just a sophomore.”
The athleticism possessed by both Omogbo and Jackson should afford each minutes within Eustachy’s philosophy of putting defense and rebounding first.
“Emmanuel is just a freak athlete,” Daniels said. “His frame is thin, but he’s not afraid to get down there and bang. He can catch a lot of balls off the rim for dunks, and he can get down there and rebound with me. Kimani is really long, he’s physical and can shoot it a little bit. … None of those guys are scared to get in the trenches and go get it and that’s what I like.”
Both have range out to the 3-point line, according to Eustachy, a weapon he hadn’t realized in his recruiting of Ombogbo and Jackson.
“They can both shoot it, particularly Emmanuel,” Eusatchy said. “He’s a 40 percent 3-point shooter, which shocks me. Even Kimani has range all the way to the three-point (line).”
But, Omogbo has not yet thought about where his offensive contributions will come.
“You just have to put the ball in the hole,” Omogbo said. “It doesn’t matter how you score, you have to put it in the hole. Coach’s offense is like no offense, so if you play defense, pass and cut on offense, and whoever is open is going to score. If you’re wide open, Coach not telling you to not shoot the ball. That’s one thing I like about him; other coaches limit your game.”
While embarking upon a first Division I season is something both Jackson and Omogbo are surely looking forward to, there are still some jitters Omogbo says he’s getting over.
“I waited two years, so it should be pretty exciting,” Omogbo said. “I’ve been nervous a little bit, I’m not even going to lie. But once I get in, and then my motor gets running, it’s over with. There’s no more being nervous.”
Saturday at 2 p.m., CSU plays a home exhibition game against Division II team Colorado State-Pueblo before heading on the road to officially begin its season Nov. 14 against Northern Iowa.
Collegian Assistant Sports Editor Sam Lounsberry can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @samlounz.