ST. JAMES — For someone who never played basketball heading into high school, Nnamdi Enechionyia has fared quite well for himself.
So well, in fact, that the 6-foot-6 Saint James senior has made a verbal commitment to play basketball next season at Samford University, a Division I school in Birmingham, Ala., in the Southern Conference.
It’s rather amazing that Enechionyia has progressed with rapidity, considering basketball was not on his radar several years ago.
“It’s a dream come true to get a full scholarship,” Enechionyia said.
First-year Samford coach Bennie Seltzer made a first visit to see Enechionyia before flying to the Mount Vernon (Va.) Holiday Tournament during the Christmas break and get another look during a game against Benedictine (Va.).
Enechionyia had been playing AAU basketball for Takeover DC 17U. His coach, Keith Stevens, contacted Seltzer before taking over at Samford. Seltzer recruited current Indiana star Victor Odalipo, of Upper Marlboro, Md, while he was an assistant with the Hoosiers.
“Coach said there are no redshirt plans,” Enechionyia said. “They want to put the ball in my hands as a point guard and on the wing. I’m comfortable in that role and like having the ball in my hands.”
Enechionyia is averaging nearly 15 points a game this season along with seven rebounds, while playing along side his younger brother, Obi Enechionyia. Last year, he averaged 15.3 points and eight rebounds.
Nnamdi Enechionyia said he liked the fact Samford plays a rigorous national non-conference schedule, including Kentucky, Louisville, Memphis and Wisconsin this season.
“It’s a tough non-conference schedule and a tough conference,” Enechionyia said. “My goal in the first year will be to make the conference all-freshman team and to help the team win games.”
Along with Obi, soccer was the main item in his sports vocabulary until he became a freshman at South County (Va.) High School.
When he decided to play basketball as a 6-foot-2 freshman, he was relegated to cameo appearances off the junior varsity bench at South County, but was soon to be discovered.
“When I went on a recruiting visit, a coach had told me there was a 6-10 player that was there. When I got there was no one there like that, but I saw this kid doing reverse dunks and I saw some things in his game that he could be special,” said Saints James coach Paul Easton. “He was really quick and played above the rim.”
Easton said Nnamdi kept telling him he “had no interest in a boarding school.”
“(Nnamdi) was the first guy that believed in me when I came here as coach,” Easton said. “It is amazing how he has come along and the hard work he’s put in. He likes the coach at Samford and has started a good relationship.”
Currently, Enechionyia has the top single-game scoring mark in the Tri-State area this season with a 41-point performance in December.
Enechionyia was also an outstanding cross country runner for the Saints this season in his first season in the sport. He is an honors student at Saint James and said he is likely to study psychology or pre-law.
“I think Samford is getting a steal,” Easton said.