First Impression: Amanze Egekeze
Belmont freshman pivot Amanze Egekeze earned his first college start Thursday night.
” I actually found out this morning in the scouting report,” said Egekeze. “We normally have names of who the matchups are and I saw my name there. I was a little bit surprised, but I knew that nothing really changed as far as my approach. Just tried to come out and do what the coaches asked me. Just rebound and defend.”
Belmont fell 79-71 to the visiting Wright State Raiders. Egekeze played pretty well.
Egekeze knocked down a three pointer early in the second half. WSU was not respecting his range and Egekeze made them pay. The true freshman also violently blocked a layup late in the contest.
Where did Egekeze come from? How did Belmont wind up with such a versatile forward?
“I went to Huntley High School,” said Egekeze. “I am from Lake of the Hills, Illinois. It is in the northwest suburbs of Chicago area. AAU, I played for the Illinois Wolves, ran by Mike Mullins. His son is actually the Assistant Coach of Wright State.”
Because Wright State was playing a big game, Coach Mike Mullins attended to watch his son, Brendan Mullins, coach.
“I feel like I made my biggest strides with them,” said Egekeze. “They taught me so much about what it is going to be like and they prepared me so much for my first year of college.”
Almost across the board young, talented men have to adjust to limited minutes during their freshman season. After being stars of their high school teams this transition can be rough. Coupled with the phony promises of many college coaches this contributes largely to insane transfer rates amongst college basketball players.
The Illinois Wolves are credited with developing Evan Turner (Boston Celtics), Chasson Randle (Stanford), Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State), and others.
“And the thing with them is they just keep getting better in college too,” said Egekeze. “They don’t just stop developing in high school. That is one thing that Coach Mullins really takes pride in with his program.”
Egekeze has a really nice mid-range game, but routinely posts up for the Belmont offense. His role continues to be rebounding and screening. Belmont does not lean on him offensively, but his time will come. He has great footwork and a smooth shot. Both of these attributes are valued by Head Coach Rick Byrd.
“I feel like, for any freshman coming into the first year of college, that is really what I have been told that is what gets you on the floor,” said Egekeze. “If you can defend multiple positions and if you can rebound and be physical then you can play.”
All Day Everyday
Despite infrequent December attempts Egekeze made six straight outside shots. Facing Middle Tennessee Egekeze made both shots from deep. He then followed it up with three straight Tuesday against Evansville. The sixth in the streak found the net early in the Wright State affair.
“I feel like I have other skills,” said Egekeze. “I can shoot the ball. I have been shooting the ball pretty well, but that is my main focus going in is just trying to be good defensively. Run the plays correctly. And just not turn the ball over.”
Belmont has managed to turn the talent over every couple years. Landing the commitment from Egekeze marked a subtle bump in skill at the four. OVC teams rarely ensnare three-star combo forwards with his agility. Look for Egekeze’s role to grow and Belmont to benefit.