by Chris Johnson (@chrisdjohnsonn)
Sudanese center Chier Ajou has been granted eligibility to play this season for Northwestern, according to an official release from the school. There were questions over whether Ajou, who committed to NU in June after relenting on his verbal with New Mexico, would be cleared to play this season due to his academic track record.
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At 7-foot-2, Ajou provides the interior length NU has lacked in recent seasons. While it's unclear whether he'll redshirt this season, Ajou promises to be an effecive rebounder and shot blocker down the road. His offensive game remains unrefined, and scouts have already pegged Ajou "raw", but it stands to reason he can help the Wildcats develop the low block game they've struggled to muster against bigger, more physical Big Ten opponents. With freshman Alex Olah and transfers Nikola Cerina and Jared Swopshire all eligible to play this season, the smartest and most logical approach is to redshirt Ajou--allowing him to develop offensively, learn the offense and add weight to his slight frame--and insert him into the rotation next season.
All in all, this is a positive development for Wildcats fans, who can now talk about Ajou not in hypotheticals, but in absolutes. Even if he never develops into a strong offensive player, Ajou will be a physically imposing force on defense and rebounding. There's a sheer intimidation factor for opposing big men who, frankly, would rather not watch their shot get swatted out of bounds. Ajou may never become that no-fly-zone block man his wingspan suggests, but his presence alone may force shooters to think twice before driving into the paint.
Stay posted for more on Ajou's clearance.