Ochefu: Everybody Knew What Play Coach Wright Was Going To Draw Up

"But we had never seen the option to Kris (Jenkins)," Daniel Ochefu says

March 29, 2018 - 8:59 am

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On April 4, 2016, Kris Jenkins hit one of the biggest shots in NCAA Tournament history, drilling a three at the buzzer to beat North Carolina, 77-74, in the national championship.

“It was crazy,” former Villanova center Daniel Ochefu said on Ferrall on the Bench. “Right after he hit that shot, everything just went into a trance. I don’t really remember what happened the rest of that night. It was just insane. Everybody on our team – and probably everybody that played for Coach Wright – knew what play he was going to draw up, but we had never seen the option to Kris. I had never seen that before as far as all the times we ran it in practice and worked on it. It was great to see him get a wide-open look and knock it down. It’s something we worked on for all our years there, and it just happened to work out the last game.”

Villanova’s 2016 title was its first since 1985. The Wildcats had a tough road to the chip, beating No. 3 Miami, No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 1 North Carolina.

“We was just all locked in,” Ochefu said. “Everybody was talking about the years before, how we didn’t get past the first weekend. But I think that year, we were just so locked in. The scouting reports or practices, our managers were so locked in. Everybody was so locked in that year on that run we had to the championship. I think that’s the thing I remember the most.”

Villanova (34-4) is back in the Final Four for the second time in three years and will face No. 1 Kansas (31-7) this Saturday at 8:49 p.m. ET. Ochefu played with many of Nova’s current stars.

“It’s great just to see them all take the recipe we had from two years ago and use it this year,” he said. “It’s amazing. I’m just so happy for those guys because I know their stores. I know all the struggles they had to go through. Just to see them get to this point, no one could have guessed that at the beginning of the year, and they’re in the Final Four now and about to win another national championship. I’m really happy and proud for those guys.”

Ochefu, 24, played for Villanova from 2012-16 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“There were some great lifetime relationships there,” he said. “Playing for Coach Wright was a great experience. He got me ready for life after basketball and also life off the court. That was a big part of why our relationship is still strong today. For the future of Villanova basketball, everything is looking real glorious right now. We’re in the Final Four now, the guys next year are going to be a real good team – I think the Coach Wright effect (is happening at) Villanova.”

Ochefu went undrafted in 2016 but spent some time with the Wizards. He now plays for the Reno Bighorns in the G-League.

“We’re taking a serious pay cut as far as pursuing our dreams to get the paycheck we want in the NBA,” Ochefu said. “It’s definitely a really hard job, but it’s definitely a blessing to be able to do this as my job. I don’t have any complaints.”

Ochefu was asked how much longer he will play professional basketball and pursue his dream of playing in the NBA.

“That’s a question I’m still asking myself today,” he said. “I’ll figure that out for myself as my journey continues, but it’s definitely a question I think about. I think, 'How much longer can I afford to continue to keep taking a pay cut?' Whenever I find the answer to that question, it could be a year, it could be two years. But I don’t think it’ll be longer than two years.”

Ochefu added that playing professional basketball can be a humbling career path.

“I was the starting big man on a national championship team, and I still didn’t get drafted,” he said. “There’s other guys that had better college careers than me and don’t get drafted and don’t make it, don’t make the NBA ever. It’s definitely a grind. It definitely will make a man out of you. Sometimes you just have to gut-check yourself and say, ‘Is it worth it?’”