“Iowa, Iowa State, NCSU, Gonzaga, Washington,” he said before pausing and continuing. “UCLA, USC, Xavier, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, Virginia Tech, George Mason, Hofstra, North Carolina and Duke. Those are the ones I can remember.”
Oriakhi said the North Carolina coaching staff called on Thursday afternoon.
"They called me earlier today -- around 12 p.m.," he said. "I spoke with (UNC Assistant) C.B. McGrath. He said they have a lot of interest in me and they’re looking for someone to come in right away and play a lot of minutes."
The Tar Heels will have plenty of minutes available for the 6-foot-9, 240-pound post player. In addition to the graduation of ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller, ACC Defensive Player of the Year John Henson has declared for the NBA draft.
With James Michael McAdoo also contemplating a jump to the NBA, UNC could potentially lose all of the post-production from its 2011-12 Elite 8 team.
“I think comfort level is going to be important for me,” he explained. I don’t want to go to school that has a ton of bigs. I want to find a team that’s going to absolutely need you. I just want to find a school where I’ll have the opportunity to get touches.”
In addition to touches, the way a school uses its big men will factor into his decision.
“You want to go to a school where big men are the focus and the offense runs through a big man. You look at other big men in the past, but at the end of the day it’s about the man in the mirror. You still have to put in the work to make yourself the best player possible.”
Oriakhi said he's familiar with UNC from watching Tar Heel games the last few years and noted he has good relationships with John Henson, Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald.
"I know the program and it speaks for itself," he continued. "Michael Jordan, he sponsors them and he went there. The program has great tradition and it’s definitely one of the top schools in the country. It’s very attractive."
Prior to signing with UConn out of high school, Oriakhi took only one official visit. To make, what he calls, “one of the biggest decisions of my life,” Oriakhi plans to be diligent and patient.
“There’s really no timetable for a decision,” he said. “I’m just weighing my options and taking my time. I have to get this one right -- I can’t get this wrong, so I’m taking my time and not rushing. I’ll do some research on schools, cut my list down a little and then start taking visits.”
When he does pick a school, Oriakhi said he brings toughness, unselfishness and a strong desire to compete and win.
“People know what I’m capable of as player,” he said, having averaged 6.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks as a junior, which followed a sophomore campaign where he averaged 9.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for a national championship team. “I’m a defensive-oriented guy. That’s what I’ve always got my name on, blocking shots and rebounds. I have some moves in the post and I can shoot the ball pretty well too… it’s just a matter of me getting opportunities. I’ m a team guy, very unselfish and I’m all about winning. I’ve been winning everywhere I’ve played and I like to win.”
While it’ll be tough leaving teammates and the school he helped win a title, Oriakhi said he’s at peace with his decision to transfer. Due to UConn's projected postseason ban in 2013, Oriakhi is expected to be immediately eligible for the 2012-13 season.
“If this is the worst thing I’ll go through in my life, it’s not that bad,” he said. It’s a blessing. A lot of people wish they could have my situation, so I’m not complaining.”