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Center Transfer Felix Okpara Talks Decision To Sign With Tennessee Basketball

Felix Okpara on his Tennessee official visit/ Photo via Okpara.

Ohio State center transfer Felix Okpara was in the transfer portal for just five days before shutting down his recruitment and signing with Tennessee basketball on Friday.

It was a simple recruitment for Okpara. Tennessee had familiarity, opportunity and a coaching staff that he meshed with.

“For me it was, one, it was close to home and two, after talking to the coaching staff and talking to Coach Barnes I felt like he is a genuine person who really wants the best for his players and wants to create a connection while also teaching and making them into a better person and better player,” Okpara told RTI on Friday afternoon.

A Lagos, Nigeria native, Okpara moved to Chattanooga ahead of his freshman year of high school and is still extremely close with his host family. His parents both went to Tennessee so Okpara was no stranger to Tennessee’s campus when he came on an official visit earlier this week.

The 6-foot-11, 235-pound center’s goal was more to get a feel for the team and the coaches. Okpara came away impressed by Vols’ head coach Rick Barnes and his honesty.

“He pretty much gave me the real deal and told me what I need to work on and what he could help me work on and how they foresee me and how they can make me a better player,” Okpara said of Barnes. “I feel like a lot of coaches don’t tell you that but with him, I just feel like I can trust him. I can see his record and the way he interacts (with players) and how his players speak highly of him.”

Okpara also has relationships with Tennessee Director of Player Development Brian Lentz who recruited Okpara for the Vols out of high school and works with big men as well as assistant coach Rod Clark who has ties to the MOKAN Elite AAU program that Okpara played for.

More From RTI: What’s Next For Tennessee Basketball In The Transfer Portal After Landing Felix Okpara

After playing his first three prep seasons at Hamilton Heights in Chattanooga, Okpara played his final high school season at Link Academy in Missouri where he was teammates with Tennessee guard Cam Carr— marking another connection he had to the Vols.

“We always kicked it off,” Okpara said of Carr. “I asked him before coming on the visit what the coaches were like and he just gave me the run down and told me how everything is. It’s pretty nice to have someone like that.”

Okpara has two years of eligibility remaining after playing his freshman and sophomore seasons at Ohio State. The center started 34 games for the Buckeyes, averaging 6.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

Tennessee’s newest center was one of the top players in the transfer portal ranking as a four-star and the No. 36 player and No. 8 center in the portal according to 247sports and as a five-star and the No. 30 player and No. 6 center in the portal according to

Okpara is elite defensively, one of just five players in college basketball that blocked 80 shots last season. The rest of that list includes Zach Edey, Donovan Clingan, Ryan Kalkbrenner and Clifford Omoruyi. He joins a Tennessee roster that lost its top two big men to the transfer portal meaning Okpara fills a huge need on the Vols’ roster.

Already an elite defensive player, Okpara’s goal is to improve as an offensive threat entering his first season at Tennessee.

“Really just to be more comfortable offensively. Getting my body right,” Okpara said of his offseason goals. “That’s one of the key steps that I’m going to focus on this offseason and getting into the season.”

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