Garland’s injury left Vanderbilt with nine scholarship players who played. With no hint his job was in danger, Drew redshirted Ejike Obinna, a second-year center who started 14 games as a freshman. The move was to benefit the long-term development of the player and program, as Drew admitted that Obinna could have helped them win at least two or three more games and will likely start full-time next season.
The above quote is from this Pete Thamel article, dated April 18, 2019. It’s probably not entirely fair to Ejike Obinna that this is my lasting memory of him: the guy who, according to Bryce Drew, would have been worth two or three SEC wins in 2019, but who also was redshirting because Bryce Drew apparently thought that his development was more important than the team winning basketball games.
And that quote has only gotten more mystifying after watching Obinna for the last two years under Jerry Stackhouse... because if you look at Obinna’s statistics, he actually got worse after the redshirt year. As a freshman, Obinna averaged 11.4 points per 40 minutes; that number dropped to 8.4 as a redshirt sophomore and only rose to 9.5 as a redshirt junior, and his shooting percentages actually got worse; he shot 46.7% from the floor in 2020-21, down from 59.1% as a true freshman in 2017-18. He didn’t record a single assist in either of the last two seasons, and in spite of being 6’10”, he failed to block a shot in 152 minutes of action this season.
Obinna did manage to start four games for the Commodores in 2020-21; one of those came on Senior Night, with the other three coming while Quentin Millora-Brown was sidelined with what we assume was a bout of COVID-19. But he leaves Vanderbilt after making a minimal impact for four years, scoring a grand total of 221 points. That’s two points fewer than longtime fan favorite Ted Skuchas scored in his first three years at Vanderbilt, if we’re making comparisons.
Anyway, Obinna has already entered his name into the transfer portal, and this is the kind of instance where it’s probably the best move for both parties: Vanderbilt gets to free up a scholarship for someone else, and Obinna can play his final year at a program that’s more in line with his skill set. It’s a disappointing career for a guy who Bryce Drew thought was worth two or three SEC wins during a redshirt year.