The Egekeze Expansion
Belmont basketball is founded in unselfishness. Floor balance is imperative. For the offensive to be its most deadly, bigs have to be able to shoot and stretch the floor.
Sophomore Amanze Egekeze is evolving as a basketball player, developing into a potent, dependable outside shooter on top of steady contributions in the paint.
Last year Egekeze arrived in Nashville with a broadly-skilled game. From day one, the power forward could catch and turn, or pop the mid-range. It took eight games until he hit multiple three-pointers in one game (2-2 vs. Middle Tennessee). Though he followed that up with a perfect 3-3 against Evansville, Belmont’s starting forward was literally hit or miss from deep the remainder of his freshman season.
As a freshman Egekeze made 33.8% of his deep offerings. When he stepped out the opponent allowed him to fire. Even if the opposing big had the mobility to close out, they often didn’t worry about extending the effort.
The devotion to discouraging Egekeze needs to change. And it will, because AE is shooting a threatening 37.3% from beyond the arc.
“I think it is a matter of being a sophomore over a freshman and having more time to get used to what we do offensively and feeling more comfortable out there,” said Belmont Head Coach Rick Byrd.
Thursday night Egekeze buried 6 triples against an undersized UT Martin frontcourt. If any defenders could close out Belmont’s center it should have been UT Martin and their athletic wing troops. He finished with a career high 20 points in the 6th conference win for Belmont.
“His role has never been a three point shooter,” said Coach Byrd. “I think another year of that being his role has helped him get comfortable and confident.”
Midway through the second half Egekeze knocked down a difficult triple. After his team pulled down the defensive rebound, Egekeze jogged straight up the court and then flaired to the corner. The ball arrived, but his man did not. Bottoms.
Back-to-back three point baskets for Egekeze completed the microcosm. UT Martin did not track him down, but getting open shots is not completely the same as making open shots. He did the hard work and has earned the esteem.
Egekeze has already racked up seven multi-make games. His three-point shot is a consistent, established part of not only his game but the Belmont offense.
Only Taylor Barnette and Craig Bradshaw have made more triples than Amanze (28).