March 26, 2014

Ugbaja buzzing to capital

Kevin McCarthy

Even in today's shape-shifting super hero film realm, it's not often a lead character morphs from a Crusader to a Hornet. But in the world of basketball, Riordan High point Jiday Ugbaja is delighted to have the opportunity to undergo just such a transformation.

photo of Jiday Ugbaja

The 6-foot Ugbaja has given a commitment to Coach Brian Katz and Sacramento State, members of the Big Sky Conference.

Why the Hornets?

“It's a great fit, Sacramento State has been on me since the end of summer and the most consistent,” Ugbaja explained. “I checked out how Sacramento State plays and that was a big factor. I really like and appreciate Coach Katz because he keeps it real. I also like the assistant coaches and the guys on the team.”

He took his official visit to the state capital in September.

As to what Hornets fans can expect of him, Ugbaja offered, “lots of leadership and focus, providing an offensive spark, and being someone who wants to gets better each and every day.” He noted his best skill as his feel for the game.

The two Sacramento State mainstays in the backcourt, Dylan Garrity and Mike McKinney, will be seniors-to-be come the 2014-15 season. The former will end up as a four-year starter at the point and the latter is well-ensconced as the top scorer and assists performer so replacements at guard will be needed.

As to who had the greatest basketball influence on him, Ugbaja said, “My older brother, Iwunna. I can't thank him enough. He introduced me to basketball and taught me how to shoot and ballhandle.”

Regarding his best basketball moment, it's playing for Team Pan Africa representing Nigeria in last July's Nike Global Challenge. “We got to go up against guys like Stanley Johnson (Mater Dei High and heading to Arizona).” Ugbaja led his squad in assists and produced 15 points, four boards and three assists versus the USA Midwest team.

Owner of a 3.5 grade point average for the first semester of this school year, Ugbaja wants to become a radiologist.

If anyone doubts his passion for hoops, Ugbaja noted, “I love everything about it. I play as much as I can and I'll watch anything type of basketball -- WNBA, community college, junior high -- you name it.”