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St. John’s loses Chris Obekpa for 10-14 days with ankle injury

Feb 18, 2014, 7:46 PM EDT

Chris Obekpa AP

On Monday, St. John’s sophomore center Chris Obekpa was diagnosed with a sprain and bone bruise in his right ankle after suffering an injury during practice. On Tuesday, St. John’s announced he could be sidelined for up to two weeks.

“Chris is a central part of what we do on both ends of the court. Our team will have to step up collectively in his absence,” St. John’s head coach Steve Lavin said in a statement. “Chris is not only an outstanding defender with shot blocking prowess but his recent offensive contributions have been a significant part of our team’s success. One of our team’s strengths is depth so we are confident in our front line players’ ability to see us through this challenging stretch.”

Despite starting Big East play 0-5, the Johnnies’ NCAA tournament hopes are very much alive. Obekpa, who is averaging 4.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game, is one of the top rim protectors in the nation with his 7-5 wingspan. He’s been a key part of the Red Storm’s improved defense, which has led to eight wins in their last nine games.

The current streak doesn’t assure anything for St. John’s, which is currently slotted in the First Four in the latest edition of College Basketball Talk’s Bracketology.

St. John’s will need to boost its resume before Selection Sunday, which can happen with five games remaining in conference play. The Red Storm travel to Philadelphia on Saturday to take on No. 9 Villanova and will be back at home next Tuesday against Xavier, another team on the bubble.

Though, both of those games will be without the services of the 6-foot-9 Obekpa.

St. John’s hosts Butler at 9 p.m. on Tuesday night.