May 24, 2013

Okugo goes Antelope-ing

Kevin McCarthy

6-foot-1 Akachi Okugo developed a post-Jesuit High plan when his recruitment didn't go as desired in 2012. It consisted of heading up to Yuba College to play for Coach Doug Cornelius, who has sent 30+ prospects on to DI, a total of over 60 combining all levels. But it would be just for one year. Okugo has now fulfilled that scenario, is headed to the Grand Canyon state and Cornelius has another talent off to college basketball's top level.

photo of Colin Gruber

Actually, also make that Grand Canyon University, whose basketball program is headed by Dan Majerle, a 14-year National Basketball Association veteran and three-time all star.

So why Grand Canyon for the Bay Valley Conference Most Valuable Player and First Team All State honoree who averaged 12.7 points and 6.3 assists on a freshman laden squad that went 15-1 in league?

It's based on many attractions including the opportunity to lead a program transitioning to DI and the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) on July 1.

“It's athletically and academically a great fit,” Okugo explained, adding, “the coaching staff is just great, it will be an up-and-down style of play and the program has high major facilities.”

He took an official visit and sure of his decision, committed to the Antelopes the next day.

Here's Cornelius on his team leader: “We knew Akachi would be with us for just a year because we were surprised no one signed him after high school. We also knew that if he got into the right situation, putting decent players around him, that we would thrive.”

Cornelius continued, “Akachi is a great kid, with a huge heart and the ability to lead. He practices and play very hard and works on on his weaknesses.”

He also said that Okugo posted a 3.9 grade point average while at Yuba.

One Akugo trait, mentioned by Majerle as one of the primary reasons for the signing, is engaging communication skills. That factor can be seconded as throughout this interview, the young man spoke cogently and clearly, no brag, just a high level of confidence.

Which also bodes well for the long term as Okugo is planning on majoring in sports management so broadcasting, if he so chooses, appears to be a fit for him. What's interesting is that Majerle worked as a Phoenix Sun broadcast analyst for five years post his NBA career. But not to be boxed in, Okugo also has a desire to continue his playing career as long as possible plus coaching and also acting.

Asked what Antelope fans will be seeing from him come November, Okugo offered, “I'll be bringing leadership on and off the court, 100% everyday. I'll be vocal and a quarterback and definitely be bringing wins.”

Others members of the 2013-14 WAC are California State University Bakersfield, Chicago State, Idaho, New Mexico State, Seattle, Texas Pan-American, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Utah Valley University.

Okugo divided his best moments in basketball into prep and college. “In high school, beating De La Salle [a 44-41 victory] to go to the Northern California championship game was tremendous” while “with Yuba, it's winning conference for the eighth straight year, winning the conference most valuable player honor and making the all state team.”

He was generous in offering thanks to those who supported him in his journey: “Most importantly, God and all my family. I wouldn't be anywhere without them, Guss Armstead, my trainer since sixth grade, my weight conditioning trainer Jeff who helped me recover from a torn meniscus, Coach Cornelius because he believed in me, all my coaches at Yuba and Coach [Greg] Harcos, Coach Matt Clifford and all the Jesuit coaches. Plus, A.W. Prince who made my highlight tapes during high school. Everyone was great.”