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DANIEL OCHEFU: Inspiring story of an Idoma-born basketball star making waves in America

Written By Idoma Television on Saturday, September 17, 2016 | 8:29:00 AM


Daniel Ochefu was born December 15, 1993. He is a basketball player for the Washington Wizards of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He played college basketball for the Villanova Wildcats.
                                             
He attended the Westtown School, where he averaged 16 points and 12 rebounds per game as a junior. As a senior, he transferred to Downingtown East High School. He was ranked 54th on ESNPU's list of the top 100 players in his high school class
Ochefu is 6-11 with a reach that makes him seem much taller. Still, at one point, he appeared destined for an even higher calling. There was serious talk about Ochefu becoming a priest.


The talk did not come only from him. “My mom. I think it was a little wishful thinking on her part,” the senior said Friday. “But that’s my mom. I love her. I think she still might have that dream in the back of her mind. I don’t know how I’m going to break it to her.”

Ochefu, who grew up in Baltimore and Nigeria (where the family temporarily moved to get to know his father’s homeland), has NBA aspirations. His 17 points in the Sweet 16 victory over Miami on Thursday will not hurt, and he had 10 points and eight rebounds in Saturday night’s victory over Kansas.

In any case, the big man never entertained the idea of the seminary. “Not even a little bit. You have to be special to be able to do that,” he said. But like his teammates, he has a good relationship with Rev. Rob Hagan, the team chaplain and associate athletic director, who was one of the first people Ochefu’s family met on his recruiting visit.


As a middle school student in Maryland, Ochefu sampled both basketball and soccer. When he reached the age of 12, his parents, Hassan and Elizabeth Ochefu - pronounced Oh-CHAY-fu - decided to relocate their family, which also includes two girls and another boy, to Lagos, Nigeria.

There were deeply family roots in the African nation and the parents felt it important that their children have an understanding of where they came from and have a chance to be near other family members.

"We were over there to see our roots and meet more of our family," says Ochefu.

This was more than merely a visit. The family spent more than two years in Nigeria.

"It was different," states Ochefu now. "The academics were sped up and there really wasn't much basketball around so I was playing soccer a lot more. I would only play basketball maybe once a month."

Ochefu found success as a midfielder in soccer and gave some thought to leaving basketball behind. But the tug of hoops never quite left him and when the family returned to the United States, the 14-year old discovered how much he had missed America and basketball.


"It was fun in Nigeria - I liked it," he says. "But it was great to be back in the United States."
One challenge for big men who begin to develop a level of notoriety is the lengths to which opponents will go to slow them. Ochefu learned what it was like to be the focus of sagging zones and assorted junk defenses designed to keep him in check.


"It can become frustrating if you let it," he says. "The one thing that always helped me is that I had great teammates. We had great shooters on the team and everyone chipped in to make it easier on me."

As he began to parse the list of college possibilities, Ochefu focused on certain elements.

"I was really big on the coaching staffs," he states. "I wanted to make sure that we were on the same page with what I wanted to do moving forward and what they were trying to do with their programs. I also wanted to go to a good school in case basketball doesn't work out, so that I will have something to fall back on."

Villanova graded well on both measures.

"The coaching staff is great, works well together and is very professional in how they do things," noted Ochefu. "When I came here, I liked the players too - we had some good conversations. The Villanova School of Business was another attraction for me because it's a great education and is ranked in the top 10 in the country. The network that is available to Villanova graduates is outstanding."

Ochefu played college basketball for Villanova. In 2013–14, he averaged 5.7 points per game as a reserve player. The following season, he had 9.2 points per game.
On March 1, 2016, Ochefu scored a career-high 25 points in a 73-63 win over St. John’s on February 13.

At the conclusion of the regular season he was named Honorable Mention All-Big East.


Ochefu played in the NCAA championship game on April 4, 2016 against North Carolina, where he helped the Wildcats defeat the Tar Heels 77-74, and claim Villanova's 2nd national championship.

A quintessential "goacher", Daniel is considered to be among the greatest big men in Villanova basketball history.

 

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