July 9, 2012 – Odi Onyekachukwu Good Recruit For Bellamy
The video was enough for Reggie Bellamy to be persuaded that Odi Onyekachukwu would be a good fit for his basketball team at State College of Florida, SCF.
Reports on Tallahassee.com say the lanky Nigerian had size at 6-foot-8, 230 pounds and Bellamy didn’t want to lose his diamond in the rough. He signed Onyekachukwu sight-unseen to play at the school formerly known as Manatee Junior College.
What he didn’t know was that Onyekachukwu was fasting and praying for about 45 days that his government would grant him a travel visa. He lost about 35 pounds, stunning Bellamy on his arrival in America.
Bellamy began to wonder if he had gotten the same player he saw on video blocking shots and ripping down rebounds.
“He was really frail,” said Bellamy, who now coaches at Palmetto High. “When we got him off the plane I was concerned about it but you could tell he was really athletic.”
He’s become even more so in the two years that he played for the Manatees. Florida A&M will be the next beneficiary of Onyekachukwu’s talent after coach Clemon Johnson signed him as a junior college transfer.
Given what he’s achieved with the Manatees, he may become one of the most versatile centers to play for the Rattlers in more than five years. He’s expected to step right into the spot vacated after Yannick Crowder played his last season of eligibility last year.
Onyekachukwu ended last season as a first-team All-Suncoast Conference selection after averaging 10.9 points per game, with 35 blocked shots in 23 games. He led the Manatees in rebounding, averaging six per game.
All he has done is exactly what he set out to do since the day he came to Florida. That’s why he said, he wasn’t too concerned about what worried Bellamy the day he first arrived looking skinner than expected.
“All I wanted was the opportunity to come over and play,” he said, “so when I got here I put the weight back on.”
Onyekachukwu proved his penchant to become a basketball player long before he was discovered by a recruiting agency that circulated the video that led to his signing at State College of Florida. His father, who worked for the government in their hometown of Aninri, Nigeria, constantly reminded him that there was no future in the game.
Onyekachukwu continued playing, although the brand of basketball was nothing close to the level that he is playing now. But he stood out and his first break came when he was noticed in a tournament in Ghana.
Now he has full support from his parents, especially his father. All of Aninri’s 140,000 residents are rooting for his success too, he said.
He considers himself a work in progress, but Bellamy said he’s shown incredible growth in two short seasons. Onyekachukwu started with the basics.
“When I came, I had problems with my footwork,” he said. “I kept working on it and practiced my shot.”
Bellamy, who played for Bethune-Cookman during the early 1990’s, calls Onyekachukwu a potential star for the Rattlers. At least two other MEAC schools and Temple were pursuing him before he settled on FAMU.
“Very, very rarely in the MEAC you have that very, very big athletic post player,” Bellamy said. “Odi is a steal (for FAMU) because he has the athleticism of some of the guards and he is able to score around basket and jumping to block shot. You don’t find those players a lot in the MEAC. You really don’t.”