August 20, 2015

Chairwoman of the boards

Kevin McCarthy

Ugochi Anudokem almost missed out on basketball but for an encouraging mother plus persistent family members and others and now she's on the verge of landing a college scholarship.

photo of Ugochi Anudokem

Out of Homestead High in Cupertino and the West Valley Basketball Club (WVBC), the 6-foot and a half inch 2016 prospect averaged 10.0 points, 12.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 21 minutes a game this past prep season. Then this spring and summer, Anudokem and her travel teammates put a hurt on a number of opposing teams that didn't see it coming.

But all this was almost never to be. “Two years ago, I was new to basketball,” Anudokem recalled. “I started playing in my sophomore year because people wanted me to play. In the beginning, I didn't know how to play and saw it as a chore. But my [junior varsity] coach, Pauline Regala, introduced me to basketball and took a chance on me by including me on the team. She pushed me hard and believed in me. Jessica Kellogg [a Homestead varsity coach and former San Jose State University player] also did too, encouraging me to try out for West Valley. This year, I got a lot more into it as I saw how much I was progressing. Everything changed and I found fun in basketball.”

Two particular playoff games give testimony to her rise. Anudokem scored 12 points and grabbed 26 rebounds versus North Salinas High in a 63-55 CCS DI quarterfinals loss. The contest before, it was 24 and 28 against Evergreen Valley High.

Uche Nsonwu, who just retired from professional basketball, is an influential uncle. According to Anudokem, “he really pushes me and is supportive.” The 6-foot-10 Nsonwu spent many years playing overseas after graduating from the University of Wyoming where he was a stalwart rebounder and shotblocker.

Asked what she see as her top skills, Anudokem offered, “I would say rebounding. Plus, I've gotten a lot better at finishing at the basket.” To what does she attribute her strong boardplay? “I'm usually taller [than opponents] most of the time and a lot faster. I'm good at getting around being boxed out.” When a shot goes up, she makes immediate calculations in case of a miss. “If it's a three-point shot, more than likely it will be a longer rebound and I have a better chance of of getting ball if I'm not under the basket.”

Here's Bob Bramlett, coach of the WVBC, on his big: “Ugochi is the best offensive rebounder I have ever seen and that includes Lynn Washington (Indiana), Ayana MacShate (Simpson) and Jason Westfall (Santa Clara). She is relentless, and has great timing as an offensive rebounder and shot blocker. In one game during the summer playing 18 minutes, she garnered 16 rebounds. This summer she matched up against girls who were up to 6-foot-7. The advantage she has as opposed to the average 6-foot post is that her reach is that of a 6-foot-3 player. She is also extremely competitive and wants the ball off the glass. Taking into account her years of basketball, the sky is certainly the limit. She had her finest moment at the University of Oregon Team Camp and really impressed the coaching staff who made a point of expressing that to me. Her recruitment includes American East Conference schools.”

Citing her two best basketball moments—both rather recent and collective not singular efforts—Anudokem offered, “This summer, we were supposed to lose by 30 to this team which had no one on the team under 5-foot-8. We won by five points.”

Her second selection: “Our last game in CCS, we were supposed to lose by a lot. We did lose, not by a lot, because everyone played so well.” That was the eight point defeat at the hands of North Salinas High.

Anudokem is looking to major in “something in computers” and sports a 3.4 grade point average. Her mother is a software engineer and her basketball uncle majored in management information systems.