Sophomore center Chris Obekpa could play in Saturday’s game against No. 9 Villanova — a game with huge NCAA Tournament implications for the Johnnies — while senior big man Orlando Sanchez is out because his wife, Flor Esthefani, had a baby daughter, the school announced.
“Our St. John’s basketball family congratulates Orlando and Flor on bringing newborn baby girl Ysabel Angela Sanchez into the world,” coach Steve Lavin said.
Lavin also said he wouldn’t “rule out” Obekpa playing, but he is by no means a certainty to play.
“He looked fine, he’s not limping or anything,” St. John’s junior JaKarr Sampson said Friday, according to the New York Post. “He looked like he’s ready to play tomorrow.”
Just three days ago, St. John’s said Obekpa could miss 10-14 days with a right ankle injury.
Obekpa and Sanchez combine to average 11.2 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.3 blocks.
The game will also mark a homecoming for Philadelphia native Rysheed Jordan, who expects to have a big contingent of family and friends at the Wells Fargo Center.
“We expect him to have a big game,” Sampson said. “No pressure on him. Just go out there and do his thing, facilitate, make open shots, create for others and play his game. Nothing different.”
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has the Johnnies as an 11 seed playing No. 6 UConn in the second round. But a win here would help give the Johnnies a marquee win down the stretch.
“Overall, the message is that if we continue to accumulate wins we control our own destiny,” Lavin said. “A win in a game against a Top 20 opponent is significant because it builds our resume and is an indication that the team is playing at a high level during the home stretch of the basketball season.”
2014 Villanova commits Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges and 2015 pledges Donte DiVincenzo and Tim Delaney are expected at the St. John’s game