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  March 31, 2003

Okafor Earns Academic And Athletic Accolades

Long before the outcome of the NCAA men's basketball tournament is decided April 7, UConn's Emeka Okafor is being feted as a champion athletically and academically.

Image: Emeka Okafor

Emeka Okafor

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Okafor, UConn's sophomore center, added to his academic and athletic accolades earlier this month when he was named to the 2003 Verizon Academic All-America Men's Basketball First Team. He is the second UConn men's basketball player to glean such an honor; the first was Wes Bialosuknia in 1966.

One week later, Okafor was named the 2002-03 Big East Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. At the same time, he earned the athletic honor of being named the conference's Defensive Player of the Year.

Okafor, a finance major, carries a cumulative grade point average of 3.73. He has earned 70 academic credits as a member of the honors program, giving him junior academic status, and has been on the Dean's List for each of his three semesters at UConn.

On the court, Okafor is averaging 15.7 points and 11 rebounds per game. He leads the nation in blocked shots, at 4.8 per contest, and holds the all-time UConn record for blocked shots, with 287.

Kevin McLaughlin, an instructor-in-residence at the School of Business who has had Okafor in his class for two semesters, says "Emeka's a great student. He clearly spends time thinking deeply about the (classroom) material. I'm surprised by some of the insights he picks up on. His attention to detail is pleasing and uncommon."

Ted Taigen, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the men's basketball team's academic advisor, says Okafor is the best student he has had in 20 years. "His work ethic reminds me of (women's basketball player) Leigh Curl," he adds. Curl was UConn's valedictorian in 1985 and is now an orthopedic surgeon at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. She also was the most recent UConn athlete - male or female - to make the Academic All-America first team, prior to Okafor.

Okafor is joined on the five-member first team by Matt Bonner of Florida, Clint Cuffle of Evansville, Adam Mark of Belmont, and Brett Starkey of Denver.

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