St. Francis - Ekpe Udoh doesn't have eye-popping statistics.
But look a bit closer and you will see the third-year forward is making a major contribution to the Milwaukee Bucks defense.
Coach Scott Skiles certainly sees it and has rewarded the 6-foot-10 Udoh with playing time, an average of 20.4 minutes over the first seven games of the season.
Udoh and 6-11 Larry Sanders often play in tandem off the bench, helping to thwart opposing offenses.
And the progress of both players has helped the Bucks get off to a 5-2 start as they end a two-game home stand Saturday night against No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Hornets.
Bucks fans knew a bit more about Sanders because he has been with the team since being drafted 15th overall in 2010. Udoh was the No. 6 pick in the same draft, selected by Golden State, and came to the Bucks as part of the Monta Ellis-Andrew Bogut deal in March.
"His main strength is he really helps keep the defense organized," Skiles said of Udoh. "He can block shots, of course.
"But that's obvious to anybody watching the game. It's not so obvious unless you know what we're trying to do, what he's really doing on the defensive end.
"He's always in the right spot. He's early in his help instead of late. He's a very high-level big guy for being in the right spot, anticipating the action and seeing it coming. His only thing is on the D-board and he's trying to make it an emphasis."
Udoh is not a strong defensive rebounder. But he finished with a team-high seven rebounds (three defensive boards) in the Bucks' 99-85 victory against Indiana on Wednesday.
His numbers are not that impressive: 5.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. But he knows his contributions are highly valued by his coach and teammates.
"This year I haven't blocked shots like I normally do," Udoh said. "But being there defensively is big. I alter shots or I'm just there on the pick-and-roll coverage.
"You've always got to know that stuff and be ready. Every little thing helps us."
The Bucks have depth in the big-man positions, a noticeable change from last season. Udoh's development has meant veteran Drew Gooden has been inactive for the last four games.
Rookie power forward John Henson returned from an injury on Nov. 7 but has played only in a lopsided loss to Memphis and in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's rout of the Pacers.
Udoh admits he didn't know what to think when he was traded along with Ellis to the Bucks last season.
"Of course I was apprehensive," Udoh said. "I came here and I didn't know much. It really messed me up that I got traded so I just went out here and played."
Now with a full training camp behind him, the 25-year-old is feeling much more comfortable with his new team.
"We're really starting to play good ball," Udoh said. "We can't feel good about ourselves. We've got to keep being dogs out there and it will all pay off."
The Bucks never considered Udoh a throw-in when making the deal with the Warriors. He was not included by Golden State at the outset, but the Bucks wanted a big man to at least partially offset the loss of the 7-foot Bogut.
"We wouldn't have done it without him," Skiles said. "It's not that we were trying to compare him to anybody else. It's just that we thought he was a quality big player that could help us."
Udoh played two years at Michigan, but his draft stock rose after a strong junior year at Baylor in 2009-'10, when he averaged 13.9 points and 9.8 rebounds.
He played in 58 games with Golden State as a rookie and in 61 games (11 starts) last season. He averaged 1.67 blocks in his second year, ranking 11th in the league.
Skiles said he wants both Udoh and Sanders to keep moving on offense and not to be "ball-holders."
"He has good post moves," Skiles said. "He screens, he rolls; he can move around the floor. He can put the ball down and make dribble-handoff plays that help facilitate the offense for other guys."
Udoh said he is trying to make a play when he has the ball and being aware of Ellis and Brandon Jennings, the Bucks' high-scoring backcourt tandem.
And on defense he's communicating with his teammates and working together with Sanders when they are on the floor together.
"It's crazy," Udoh said. "On defense we both can guard on the perimeter and we both can get blocked shots.
"All the time we're talking; in timeouts we're talking what we need to do. He always has my back. I always have his back. We're animals."http://www.jsonline.com/sports/bucks/fo ... 50901.html