Forward Elo Edeferioka raising her game just in time for ACC play
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
There are lots of smiles and good feelings around Georgia Tech these days.
It’s that post-Finals Week high, when students celebrate getting through final exams and head into winter break proving they’ve mastered and can apply what they’ve learned during the semester.
Elo Edeferioka feels good about finishing finals and better about the progress she’s made and continues to make for the on-going one-court test that ideally won’t conclude until April.
The 6-2 redshirt junior forward from Warri, Nigeria, via Hofstra University, has been getting a clinic in post play from Georgia Tech women’s basketball head coach MaChelle Joseph and is showing signs that she has turned a corner.
Edeferioka, who sat out last season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules, is one of only two Yellow Jackets to start all 10 games this season (freshman guard Francesca Pan is the other), and is eager to continue that growth on Saturday when the 9-1 Yellow Jackets take on 8-1 Alabama at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa (tip-off is at 2 p.m. CT). Tech is 1-3 all-time vs. the Crimson Tide, but won last Dec. 18 at McCamish Pavilion.
Elo will try to springboard off her first double-double as a Yellow Jacket, an 11-point, 10-rebound effort in the 81-52 win over Appalachian State on Sunday at McCamish.
“It was great,” said Edeferioka, who chalked up 10 double-doubles in two years playing for the Pride. “It took me awhile to get to that. I haven’t played a whole year. Coach Jo is trying to get me into a position to score and trying to remind me of where I need to be. So it was good. It felt good to get back.”
Edeferioka’s 11 points were one fewer than she scored in her previous five games combined and was five off her GT high, while her five FGMs, which matched her Tech high, done twice previously, and were one more than her total in the previous six.
It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time, for which she gave credit to Joseph.
“Coach Jo was working with me in practice to post up more, exactly where to go in the zones and where I’m supposed to move to when the guards are dribbling,” she said. “She’s sending me to my strengths because she knows I can post up and I’m more productive on the block. So that’s where she’s sending me to because I’m not really the type of player that wants to get the ball outside and dribble to the basket. She’s sending me down to the block in the paint where I should be. That’s making me score more.”
Passing Joseph’s crash course on positioning also has resulted in Edeferioka being more of a contributor crashing the boards. She leads the Jackets in rebounding (53, 5.3 rpg), ranking second in defensive boards (33, one behind team leader Katarina Vuckovic) and in offensive rebounds (20, six behind Chanin Scott). Georgia Tech begins play Saturday as runner-up in the ACC in offensive rebounding (16.8 ORB/G).
“Coach Jo is really big on rebounding. She says if you want to win games you have to rebound because if you don’t rebound you’re not going to be able to run,” said Edeferioka, who has led Tech in rebounding in back-to-back games, pulling down 17 in those two games. “Offensive rebounding is really big. We want to get second chances. Look at our size. We’re really big inside. So that should be to our advantage on the floor.”
For several games this season, height proved to be a disadvantage for the Jackets, as teams frequently played with four guards. Those smaller lineups proved especially problematic on defense for Elo, who found herself like Gulliver amongst the Lilliputians.
“At first it was really a struggle for me. That was why I wasn’t scoring a lot, because I was getting into foul trouble,” she said. “It was really frustrating for me being out there switching on guards and having to guard guards.”
The matchups often put her out of position.
Again, Edeferioka gives credit to Joseph for helping correct the problem. This time, the solution was more mental.
“Coach Jo always tells me, ‘You have to accept it. Don’t think about Hofstra where you have to be in the paint the whole time. You have to adjust to the system.”’ she said. “That was what I did. The last couple of games, the highest [number of] fouls I’ve had is two fouls (she’s had five total over the previous four games). I feel like I’m adjusting fine to that.”
Adjustment to her surroundings off the court has made making adjustments on it easier. December in Atlanta is certainly a lot more pleasant, even this week’s low-30’s temperatures still are downright balmy compared to New York.
“It’s not really cold down here compared to Hofstra, it snows up there,” she said, with a laugh. “That was really tough for me because I would get sick all the time. It was hard for me because when it snowed I didn’t want to come out of the room. This I can manage.”
At 9-1, the third such start in the MaChelle Joseph Era and first since 2007-08, the Jackets are playing big and playing bigs, as they have six players on their roster standing at least 6-2. That has created healthy competition for playing time.
“Coach Jo says she’s going to play whoever defends and gets rebounds,” she said. “We have a lot of people that can come in and contribute right away.”
While the competition for playing time is intense, the forwards are 100 percent team-first.
“We have a lot of post players but we’re not selfish. Whenever anyone is playing well we’re really excited for each other,” said Edeferioka. “It can be my day today, it can be someone else’s day tomorrow. That’s how we see it. You’re definitely going to need more than one or two post players along the line so having that many post players on the team is really helpful.”
It’s all hands on deck, as the Alabama game begins the countdown to 2017 and ACC play — there are two non-conference games remaining after Saturday (Dec. 22 at Middle Tennessee State and Dec. 29 vs. Princeton at McCamish). Conference action begins with a pair of brutal home games, Jan. 2 against nationally second-ranked Notre Dame, then three days later against No. 18 Duke.
“It’s really exciting. That’s what we’re looking forward to,” Edeferioka said. “The other games, they’re very important but there are bigger games in front of us coming up. We’re really excited.”