Sunday, March 8, 2009

Weyinmi Efejuku Bringing Strong Play Into Big East Tournament

Weyinmi Efejuku has been on fire lately for PC averaging 24 points a game on 56% shooting in his last 6 games. Weyinmi is hoping that strong play can help him win at MSG for the first time ever, via ProJo Sports:

Like any youngster growing up in Queens, N.Y., with basketball dreams close to his heart, Weyinmi Efejuku always craved the chance to play, and star, at Madison Square Garden. Thus far in Efejuku’s hoops career, those Garden dreams have played out like nightmares. But this week, in perhaps his final chance to play on the Garden’s big stage, Efejuku and his Providence College teammates have an opportunity for their biggest wins of all.

When PC begins play in the Big East Tournament on Wednesday against either Cincinnati or DePaul, its whole season will be on the line. The Friars (18-11) need a win for a chance at an NCAA Tournament bid. Two wins this week will ensure the school’s first bid since 2004 and allow Efejuku to leave the Garden with an everlasting warm feeling in his heart.

"I have never won a basketball game at Madison Square Garden," he said. "I’m going to try to make it so it’s not up to chance. You just want to play as hard as you can. For some of us, this could be our last basketball game. When you think about that, it should be more than enough reason to play as hard as you can for 40 minutes."

Efejuku’s Garden nights have been ugly ones thus far. He nearly played a high school game for Rice High in the building but the game was moved to Fordham University. Efejuku has left the Garden as a loser in all three visits as a Friar. Two came in his sophomore year when St. John’s pinned a 13-point loss on PC and West Virginia won a first-round game in the Big East Tournament. Last season, WVU beat the Friars again, 58-53.

The Efejuku who will lead the Friars back to the Garden this week will be a marked man. For the first time in his career, the 6-foot-4 scoring guard has elevated his play to a dominant level. Over his last six games, Efejuku has averaged 24 points and connected on 56 percent of his shots. During stretches of games against Notre Dame and nationally ranked Pittsburgh and Villanova, he seemingly scored every time he touched the ball.

In PC’s 97-80 loss at Villanova last Thursday, Efejuku did his best Dwyane Wade impression. He sank his first five shots, some in spectacular fashion, in scoring 12 points in the first four minutes of the game. In the second half, he scored 12 straight points to keep a flagging upset bid alive and finished with 29 points.

"It was nothing planned," he said. "Last time we played them I had 20-something in the second half, so this time I felt like I could come out and attack them from the beginning and see how they’ll play me. I just really wanted to set the tone early."

That early tone-setting is now vital for the Friars. For three seasons, previous Providence coach Tim Welsh urged Efejuku to play more aggressively. First-year coach Keno Davis has picked up that refrain, frequently yelling “Go Weyinmi,” when the shot clock is ticking down. "I always looked at him and could see his talent level, and you knew we could see big nights from him," said Davis, "but he’s now in a position to attack the basket more consistently. He has that explosive first step, a next-level first step."

Asked to explain the recent spike in his production, Efejuku seems to finally realize that he can carry the Friars’ offense. "I’m being more aggressive, just with the way I catch the ball and call for the ball," he said. "I’m penetrating, I’m shooting outside and pretty much doing everything I know how to do. Once we get going, it’s hard to stop us."

Pressed further on what he’s thinking with the end of his college career potentially only a few games away, Efejuku spoke about the mental tussle that every scorer copes with. "Sometimes (Davis) wants me to be even more aggressive, but I’m a little hesitant because I don’t like feeling like I’m not getting my teammates involved," he said. "I don’t want to take poor shots, even if three out of four go in. On that fourth shot, I’m thinking, 'Maybe I should’ve passed.' " But in the next breath, Efejuku admits, "Time is ticking. If they’re good shots, you pretty much have to take them."

PC’s entire team has battled the should-I-shoot-or-should-I-pass mental burden this season. Davis emphasizes the 3-point shot, but launching open shots and not forcing bad threes has been a team-wide problem and often leads to costly turnovers. "Weyinmi has learned what we want," said Davis. "I tell everyone: I don’t want anyone second-guessing themselves if they’re attacking the basket."

Through Davis’ urging, Efejuku has embraced his ability to draw fouls and score from the foul line. He attempted only seven shots from the floor in a win at Rutgers but made 15-of-17 free throws and finished with 28 points. He made 9-of-13 free throws at Villanova. "Coach has told me that guys like James Harden (the Arizona State star), he gets to the foul line a lot and that’s what the NBA scouts like about him. Now I’m starting to get to the free-throw line a lot," Efejuku said. "I want to make the referees make a call. More times than not they’re going to call it."

Maybe. In a conference like the Big East, foul calls are famously not made. Bumping and grinding is a way of life. "On one 'charge,' I was held from the free-throw line to the basket," Efejuku said after the Villanova game. "During the game, I’ll have cuts and bruises, but my body hasn’t worn down yet." Instead of wearing down, Efejuku looks like he’s gearing up for what he and the Friars hope will be an overdue Garden party. "It’s a very critical point for all of us seniors," said Efejuku. "We’re trying to get to the [NCAA] tournament. This is the time to do it all."
More: Providence College

No comments:

Post a Comment