By Kyle LoJacono
Victor Obi commands attention without a word.
The senior center doesn’t have to say anything for his opponents to notice him thanks to his 6-foot-5 frame, and within minutes of playing Victor they realize that he uses every bit of that height to grab rebounds, swat away shots and command the paint.
“I try to do everything,” Victor said. “I try to do everything I can and everything coach asks me. If I have to score, I’ll score. If I have to rebound, I’ll rebound. Whatever the team needs me to do.”
Victor has done just that this season by leading his squad with 12.9 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game.
“He’s averaging a double-double, and there are only three or four kids in the county doing that,” said Land O’ Lakes coach David Puhalski. “That means the world to us because we can count on him to score and rebound. … He’s a great enforcer inside. We play a lot of help defense, and he’s able to rotate over and deflect the ball. He’s the defensive stopper for us.”
Seth Galbraith became Victor’s teammate earlier this year when the junior shooting guard moved from Ohio. He said he’s never played with someone as tall before.
“He’s big and can do it all, and when he blocks a shot it gets us pumped up, and you can see it brings the other team down,” Galbraith said.
Victor’s ability and size makes an impact on the game even when he doesn’t touch the ball.
“It’s easy to pass it to him because he’s big, but also he draws their attention,” said Victor’s brother Mike Obi, a sophomore point guard. “Drawing double teams into the post gives everyone else open shots.”
Victor dabbled in other sports, such as football, growing up, but said he never got serious about anything other than basketball.
“I started just because my parents put me in basketball, but then after watching players like Dwayne Wade and LeBron James I just fell in love with it,” Victor said. “Watching them made me want to get better.”
He also got better by learning from former teammate Max Bartels after being called up to the varsity team as a sophomore.
Bartels, who was a senior during the 2010-11 season, is also a 6-foot-5 center.
“I picked up certain things from him,” Victor said. “I was young when I first came on varsity and he was a senior, so he would come to me and tell me where to be, to come out and play strong and I learned those certain character traits from him.”
Bartels was also a scoring and rebounding machine for the Gators, but there is one thing Victor has on his former mentor — his ability to swat away shots.
Victory has blocked 128 shots during his time on the varsity roster while adding 418 points and 370 rebounds.
“Blocking is something that’s just always come naturally to me,” Victor said. He added, “Coach asks a lot from me in the paint. I try to go down, post up, rebound, block shots, so I take a lot of pride in that.”
The demands to produce are even higher on Victor this season as he is the only returning starter on a squad that went 22-7, claimed a district champion and won a playoff game last year.
“I feel a little pressure, but I think we’ll be OK,” Victor said. “We’re just young, a lot of guys moving up from (junior varsity). We just need to figure that out, get some chemistry going and we’ll be fine.”
—Follow Kyle LoJacono on Twitter: @Kyle_Laker
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