EAST CHICAGO — Chris Okeke stands 6-foot-8, and the junior made sure he used every inch of his height Wednesday night.
E.C. Central's starting power forward dominated the glass, blocked a few shots and pulled off a number of highlight reel dunks. Okeke's athleticism was on full display throughout the entire game against Morton, but his most exciting play came early in the contest.
A few minutes into the second quarter, junior Shammon Williams stole the ball, drove the length of the floor and was contested at the rim. But instead of shooting a layup, he threw a pass high off of the backboard. And before any Governors defenders could get their hands on the ball, Okeke swooped in for a two-handed slam.
"I whispered it," Okeke said. "I said, 'Off the glass,' so he threw it off of the glass and I boomed it. He's got eyes in the back of his head. It's too easy."
The alley-oop jam brought the home crowd to its feet, and the Cardinals never let up in their 87-53 Great Lakes Athletic Conference opening victory. Okeke finished with 16 points and a team-high 10 rebounds to guide E.C. Central to its third straight win, but he wasn't the only player to have a a big night for the Cardinals.
Rodney Clemmons led all scorers with 17 points in only his second game of the season. The senior transferred from Curie Metropolitan in Chicago and just became eligible this week. In his first outing, Clemmons scored 14 points in a win over Bowman Academy on Tuesday night and coach Marcus Jefferson said he has already made an immediate impact.
"Rodney is the calm to our storm," Jefferson said. "He's a multifaceted player and can play whatever position you need him to play on the floor. He's heady, he's skilled and helps us out a ton."
Five players knocked down a 3-pointer for E.C. Central, including Clemmons. He nailed 3 of his 7 attempts from behind the arc and also converted 2-of-3 free throws.
The senior said it was difficult to sit out the first seven games of the season and believes he will only raise E.C. Central's level of play with his size, athleticism and decision-making.
"I think I bring a lot of value, a lot," Clemmons said. "Leadership, slowing it down, points, rebounds, defense and control."
Morton was held to 12 points in the first quarter and made 1 of its 12 3-point attempts. Jefferson commended his team for its defensive effort and thinks it will pay off as the Cardinals get deeper into their conference schedule, especially after a rough start to the season.
E.C. Central opened the year 0-4 and lost three of those contests by 10 points or less. But with the addition of Rodney and Okeke becoming a more consistent player, Jefferson is confident his team will be able to find a rhythm and make some noise in the GLAC — starting with a big victory over Morton.
"Last year our season ended on a very bitter note with a buzzer-beater against Morton at Lake Central in the quarterfinals of the sectional," Jefferson said. "I reminded my guys of that loss. I reminded my guys that this is a conference opponent, and we really want to win this conference outright."