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Ohio State sophomore Felix Okpara is entering the transfer portal after two seasons in Columbus

After two seasons in Columbus, starting center Felix Okpara has decided to enter the NCAA Transfer Portal, ending his Buckeye career and immediately changing the outlook for the 2024-25 Ohio State men’s basketball season.

Okpara – a 6-foot-10 sophomore originally from Lagos, Nigera – played in 70 games over two seasons for Ohio State. He started 34 of 35 games as a sophomore, replacing Zed Key – who was two years older than him – in the starting lineup. Okpara continued the momentum from the end of his freshman season into the summer, where he earned that starting spot at center when the Buckeyes took on Oakland in the season opener.

In two seasons, Okpara averaged 5.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Amazingly, he scored essentially the same percentage in his freshman (58.7%) and sophomore (58.6%) seasons. He wasn’t one of Ohio State’s best options on offense, but was a lob threat at all times, especially in transition. Okpara looked increasingly confident as the season progressed, but he was especially effective in the NIT, scoring in each of Ohio State’s final three games – the first time he had done so in his career.

Okpara became one of the best interior defenders in the Big Ten as a sophomore and ranked second in blocks per game, with 2.3. Even after games in which Okpara didn’t score much, Diebler went out of his way to praise Okpara almost daily for his “phenomenal” defense.

The sophomore’s decision to explore other options comes six days after Aaron Bradshaw, a former McDonald’s All-American, top five recruit and Kentucky Wildcat, announced he would transfer to Ohio State. Jake Diebler and the Buckeyes were reportedly figuring out ways to play both big men together, but starting the two together wasn’t a guarantee. Ultimately, Okpara decided it was in his best interest to continue elsewhere.

Although Okpara did not develop as quickly on offense as some of the other players in his recruiting class, such as Bruce Thornton, Roddy Gayle and Brice Sensabaugh, he seemed to hit his stride late in the season, and expectations were high for his junior season. That season will take place somewhere, but not in Ohio State.

Okpara was a four-star recruit in the class of 2022, according to 247Sports. He was the No. 66 overall player in the class, the No. 14 overall player in the class and the fourth-highest rated player in the state of Missouri. He was the third-highest rated recruit in Ohio State’s 2022 class, behind Gayle and Thornton but ahead of Sensabaugh and Hardman.

Like most of the current roster, Diebler was Okpara’s main recruiter. The two have a close relationship, and the hope was that one benefit of hiring Diebler was that the team’s main core would resist the portal and stay in Columbus. After Ohio State’s win over Virginia Tech in the NIT (Ohio State’s last win of the year), Okpara said one of the motivations to keep winning was to “keep this family going.” Okpara is the fifth Buckeye to enter the transfer portal since the end of the season.

Okpara was also heavily recruited by SEC schools such as Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Texas and Kentucky, as well as Nebraska, Wake Forest and others.

Diebler’s first offseason saw Ohio State attack the transfer portal differently than his predecessor, Chris Holtmann. While Holtmann has often looked for complementary pieces to complete a roster, Diebler is clearly looking for players he believes can make a substantial impact right away. The result so far has been higher turnover than expected from returning players, but ultimately Diebler was hired to raise the bar and win.

Good luck to Felix wherever he ends up!