August 20, 2016

Chidom bound for the Pac-12

Kevin McCarthy

The late George Plimpton is most famous for his April Fool's Day Sports Illustrated article on pitcher Sidd Finch, possessor of a 168 miles per hour fastball and who many believed to be real. Today is nowhere near April 1 but Arinze Chidom, an actual 6-foot-9 plus basketball player, is blowing up in basketball circles culminating with his commitment to Washington State.

photo of Arinze Chidom

How can this be? Here's the backstory. Chidom played four years at Bishop O'Dowd and graduated in the 2015 class as a 6-foot-8 forward alongside Ivan Rabb, Paris Austin, Franklin Longrus and Isaiah Thomas. "I didn't play varsity until my senior year in high school and was put on the JV my junior year because coach thought I had promise," he recalled. "So at 6-foot-6, I played JV as a point guard to gain the experience I did not receive my freshman and sophomore year. Junior year was probably the hardest year in high school as it was utterly embarrassing to play JV as a junior while standing 6-foot-6 when your sister was a McDonald's All American. I wanted to quit basketball several times throughout the year. In my senior year, I was bumped up to varsity with zero confidence and ambition. Once again, I was the ninth or 10th guy off the bench."

As a senior, Chidom weighed around 180 so his body needed greater strength. A polishing of his skill set was also required. Academics were never an issue considering his 3.0 grade point average. Time was needed for both development and exposure since Chidom played little for the Dragons.

He then enrolled at Sunrise Christian Academy located in Kansas, playing the 2015-16 season on the prep team alongside teammates from Spain, Romania, Columbia, Nigeria and Congo. "There were 10 D1 prospects on the team. With the high concentration of talent on one squad, it was difficult to stand out. But being around such high competition for a whole year gave me the experience I lacked in high school. Sunrise was probably my biggest learning curve in basketball development but it didn't show mainly due to lack of confidence and no exposure."

Chidom returned to the Bay Area in March with no buzz surrounding him. His name was not being bandied about in recruiting circles. "Out of prep school I was a high DII prospect but I wanted to play D1 so the options were walk on, go JC, or just be a regular student."

He began working out with Keenan McMiller, the Merritt college coach whose sense was that Chidom was a mid major talent or low D1 talent yet the possessor of higher level promise. "Coach McMiller wasn't the first coach to notice my potential but he was the first to act on it by surrounding me around high level players. So he had me work out with Chris Farr's NBA prospects and put me in the SF Pro-Am. This is when I realized how much I had developed."

Joining the Bay Raiders of the San Francisco Pro Am, the 197-pound Chidom came back from a game and told his family, "I can hang with them."

"In these workouts and games, people noticed a difference in my game and some people didn't even recognize me from high school." Farr, with double digit years of experience as a college coach, including time at Loyola Marymount, USF and Fresno State, told the family, "I can't believe he doesn't have an offer."

Chidom continued, "When [Bishop O'Dowd] Coach Lou [Richie] took notice, he invited me to a Saint Mary's Moraga open gym. I got an offer within the next couple of days for 2017."

In early July, Chidom was scheduled to play in Jerry Mullen's basketball events for higher level junior college talents in Overland Park, Kansas. It would be an opportunity for national exposure. But he sustained an injury and had to withdraw.

Chidom recovered though and late that month participated in another JC event in Los Angeles as well as one in Las Vegas. After that, the dam burst.

At one point, he received 10 offers in a three-hour time span. "That's when we knew we had something," Obi Chidom said. Pac-12 schools and others are also now involved. So much so that Chidom's parents had to take temporarily custody of his cell phone due to the deluge of calls from recruiters.

"I was just overwhelmed by the influx of offers that it was virtually impossible to focus on anything else. I always knew I had D1 talent being 6-foot-9 and athletic. I just didn't have the proper mind set of a D1 player. All I needed was something to 'click' in order to be great."

He committed to head coach Ernie Kent and Washington State on Thursday and will enroll for this coming school year. The family has exposure to high level recruiting through the experience of Oderah Chidom, Arinze's sister, who plays for Duke.

"This is a great, uplifting story for kids who feel rejection," said Obi Chidom.

Sometimes it's a combination of factors, some uncontrollable, that form an imposing barrier to hopes and dreams. But Arinze Chidom believed in himself and never gave up. Now he's on the cusp. "The main thing that changed for me over the summer was confidence. Once I got an offer from Saint Mary's, I felt a sense of relief knowing that I was good enough to play at that level at least. The main lesson that I took from my whole experience was the importance of never giving up and feeling sorry for oneself. Excuses were my biggest downfall throughout prep and high school and once I ran out of them that's when I began to flourish because I was forced to face reality and that's what motivated me to get out of bed in the morning."