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Northwestern lands 7-foot-2 native of South Sudan

Bill Carmody

Northwestern coach Bill Carmody signals to his players during the second half against Illinois in an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012, in Champaign, Ill. Northwestern won 74-70. (AP Photo/Darrell Hoemann)


Northwestern finished last season as, quite possibly, the worst rebounding team in the country.

According to Kenpom, they were 319th in the country if offensive rebounding percentage, which bested their spot as the 327th best defensive rebounding team in the country. That’s just not good, and it doesn’t help that both John Shurna and Luka Mirkovic have used up their eligibility.

Some help is on the way, however. TCU transfer Nikola Cerina guarantees that the Wildcats will have another big man with a name that makes him sound like a bad guy from the Bourne Trilogy, while 6-foot-11 freshman Alex Olah also joins the team.

But over the weekend, Northwestern made their biggest addition -- literally -- of the offseason.

Chier Ajou, a 7-foot-2 center that spent last season at St. Thomas More in Connecticut, will join the program next season. It’s not guaranteed that he will play next season, however. According to the Chicago Tribune, Ajou’s moved to the United States in December of 2008 and the early portions of his transcript at difficult to decipher. He’s still waiting for clearance from the NCAA on his academic eligibility.

Ajou will be one of the most interesting stories in college hoops next season. He’s a native of the South Sudan and related to Luol Deng, Ajou Deng (who played at UConn and Fairfield) and Deng Gai (who played at Fairfield and spent time on the Piston’s roster).

I bet that family has some intense pick-up games.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.