He smiles and looks around at the crowd. He holds up the jersey that means a second chance to prove what many believed he had back when he was taken second overall in 2004. For right now, Emeka Okafor is taking the chance one step at a time.
"I'm a person who likes challenge,” Okafor stated. “I like to set goals."
Okafor had everything lined up coming out of the University of Connecticut. Coming off a National Championship, he brought hope to a new team with new faces to a basketball league so hard to gain success in.
While the faces changed around him, Okafor stayed the same, winning the Rookie of the Year award, signing a huge deal with the club and then putting up career numbers of 14 points, 10.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. Somehow Okafor still found himself at the press conference in New Orleans, finding himself starting fresh in a city looking for a hero to help take this team to the next level.
“I’m gonna bring my hard hat to work and do all the dirty work,” he said with a smile.
While many have gotten to know Dwight Howard over the past seasons, Okafor has slipped behind the limelight as he has played all 82 games the past two seasons after having injury problems in the beginning of his young career. He also is one of three players alongside Tim Duncan and Howard to average a double double in the past five seasons putting him in the likes of big names without being talked about.
Though he hasn’t got the credit as much as others in the league have, he will be playing with one of the most recognizable and talked about point guards in the league in Chris Paul.
Okafor only could smile again when asked about playing with Paul.
"Chris is one of the premier point guards in the league. Having a good, experienced point guard means all the things in the world. So I'm very anxious to see how everything works."
Tyson Chandler was known to get the label of a product of Chris Paul. That label of product of Paul is thrown around a lot in New Orleans as Paul’s passing ability seems to be rare as the Kidd’s and Stockton’s of this generation but it will be up to Okafor to make his own mark.
Okafor is not gifted on the offensive end and was a problem early in Charlotte as he played with the likes of Matt Carroll, Primo Brezec and other not so talented team mates who often led the coaching staff to create something that wasn’t there for Okafor. The Hornets are a whole new make up as David West will be the low post scoring threat while Okafor can concentrate on what help him bring his college team to number one in the country in defence.
While many look at this trade as defensive player for defensive player, the truth is that it’s a chance for a former number two pick to regain his stature on the basketball court. Once he hits the court in September in that crisp new New Orleans Hornets jersey, Okafor will be looking to rebound in more ways than one.