FORT WAYNE, Ind. -- He was almost forgotten heading into last spring, another player on a summer basketball team pushed down the bench in an environment where starters play a lot of minutes and every possession is a chance to be noticed.
Slowly, though, Amanze Egekeze (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Huntley) started to find himself even though he was the third man off the bench for the Illinois Wolves when he started playing summer basketball with the team last season. The aggressiveness Egekeze needed at the time was there, but the skills he had to have were still raw.
So he worked and he soon realized if he pushed enough, he could play basketball in college.
“The spring coming off my freshman year,” Egekeze said. “I played varsity but I was coming off the bench and was only averaging about three points a game. I had one really good game and the coaches were there and saw something.
“I progressed slowly. I was the eighth man on my AAU team and worked my way up.”
By his third AAU tournament, he made his way into the starting lineup for the Wolves and has remained there since, a lanky 6-foot-7 post player who has almost a 7-foot wingspan and a knack for scoring around the basket.
Egekeze’s game continued to improve and as it did, he never lost the aggressiveness his coaches at the Wolves saw in the first place. Egekeze never shied away from playing the post.
Adding that style to a improved skill set has attracted attention from big-time programs. Egekeze said DePaul and Toledo have offered him scholarships and that the majority of the Big Ten, including Michigan, has expressed interest in the summer basketball teammate of the No. 45 player in the Class of 2014 and another Michigan target, Keita Bates-Diop (Bloomington, Ill./University).
“In his last six, seven months with us and his high school team he became more aggressive,” said Dave Kleinschmidt, his coach with the Wolves. “Before, he was timid. He still has a skinny body. For his body shape, he’s probably our best post, skill-wise. He likes to bang, be aggressive, has offensive moves on the glass that we don’t really have on our team.”
His post game attracted attention of colleges. Since the end of the high school season, Egekeze has worked on improving his shot to add versatility to his game and make himself more attractive to colleges during the open July evaluation period.
His game caught the eye of college coaches during April. Now, he has to capitalize on his improving game.
“I would say it is more inside-out,” Egekeze said. “I like to post up so I have good post moves, but I’m trying to round out my game.”
Egekeze said Michigan showed up at one of his workouts during the high school season and has stayed in contact with him, mostly through assistant coach LaVall Jordan. Every time he has spoken to the Wolverines’ staff, Egekeze said, the response has been increasingly positive.
Michigan also fits the type of school he is looking for and he has already visited campus.
“I’m looking for a good combination of academics and also basketball,” Egekeze said. “I visited the campus a little bit at Michigan and it’s a really good program I’d say.”