Tonye Jekiri's rise to prominence this season has been meteoric and impressive.
Known his first two seasons as a dependable screen setter, decent finisher at the rim, and something of a foul waiting to happen, the 7 footer originally from Nigeria has improved all facets of his game.
The numbers speak for themselves.
(Some other numbers to consider, 84% FT % - Nearly 30 points higher than his previous career high & 2.3 apg, 3x better than his previous best)
Career high 13 rebounds 11/20 Vs Drexel, topped by a new career high 16 Vs Akron one day later.
13 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists (career high) 11/28 Vs South Alabama.
And this past Tuesday against Illinois, he collected 6 points (all in the second half), 9 rebounds (though it felt like 20) and 2 big blocks.
But beyond the numbers, he was a presence.
Three plays in particular from that contest epitomize the new, improved, and confident Jekiri.
After a touch foul was called at about the 10 minute mark of the second half, Illinois guard Ahmad Starks released a three ball anyways and TJ reached up and swatted it.
Minutes later Rayvonte Rice drove baseline and Jekiri went up high to pin him off the glass. Although he was called for a goal tend, it was still a "get that out of here" moment.
Finally at the 3 minute mark with Miami clinging to a lead, Jekiri collected a missed jumper, gathered himself, and finished strong to give UM breathing room.
On the way up the court Tonye smiled and pointed his left index finger to his right bicep.
When you are playing this well, you are entitled to have some fun.
Or as Coach Larranaga so succinctly put it after Miami's 70-61 win.
"Tonye was terrific."
This season, few players have been as consistently terrific as Jekiri.
As Miami continues it's out of conference schedule (today 2PM EST Vs Green Bay, ESPNU) and prepares for ACC play, they will continue to need his production and presence.
Right now, given the make up of the roster, you could argue no player is more irreplaceable than Tonye Jekiri.