Introducing the 2005 Class: Antwi Atuahene

Saying that JC transfer Antwi Atuahene feels the weight of his country on his shoulders each time he sets foot on the hardwood, may sound a bit melodramatic. However, the Canadian-born point guard, who thrives on being the underdog, does admit that there's something to be said for portraying a nation, who's not known for being a basketball powerhouse, in a positive light.

"Every time I step on the floor," said Antwi Atuahene (pronounced antwee antwa-heen), "I do feel like I'm representing my country, besides representing myself and my family. There's a lot of good basketball in Canada, especially in Toronto. Fans don't know about it, but coaches do."

It may sound simplistic, but according the Arizona State sophomore, basketball is basketball no matter where it's played. "There's not a lot of difference between the basketball scene here and there," claimed Atuahene. "We have a lot of athletic players in Canada, they're maybe just less hungry to succeed and don't play with as much passion as players in the U.S. In Canada, some teams or players don't bring it everyday. Over here they do."

Atuahene also realizes that in order to have a chance of playing in the NBA, he needed to ensure that he lands in an American university rather than a Canadian one. "That was my attitude," he explained. "To play at the next level, I need to play against players that will be going to the next level. To do that, I needed to play college basketball in the U.S."

Ironically enough, Atuahene won't be the only Canadian point guard playing in the greater Phoenix area. Last year's NBA MVP and Phoenix Suns star Steven Nash is a player that Atuahene naturally looks up to. "I met Steve Nash when I was 13," he recalled, "and I saw him when I was trying out for the national team, but I really didn't get a chance to talk to him. Now that we're in the same city, I hope to get to really meet him and talk to him."

Not to be forgotten, Wayne Gretzky, perhaps the No. 1 sports royalty figure hailing from our neighbors to the north, also calls the Valley of the Sun his home. Atuahene, prefers floor hockey over ice hockey, but does follow the NHL to a small extent. "I haven't been to an NHL game in person," he remarked. "Maybe I'll go to a Coyotes game, now that Wayne Gretzky is coaching there. I'll definitely watch them on TV. sometime."

Atuahene is one of the best high school players to come out of Canada in the last few years. He played high school basketball at Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary School in Toronto and was named the Toronto Sun's Mr. Basketball Ontario in 2002-2003. He averaged 34.5 points, 11.5 assists and 10.0 rebounds in his senior year. In his scholastic career, he scored more than 6,000 points and dished out more than 1,800 assists.

"I was pretty highly recruited out of high school," he said. "Michigan, Kansas, Texas, Illinois, were recruiting me. I went to a lot of camps, and I felt that my recruiting went pretty well." The guard ended up signing with Rutgers, but problems with his Visa and transcript prevented him from playing there. Nevertheless, he does remember them fondly. "They had a great coaching staff, and I had a great relationship with them," he remarked. "It was just a good situation for me. I like playing on underdog teams and help them get to the top, and they were at the bottom of the Big East. I wanted to make an impact right away."

Atuahene decided to go the junior college route, but his bad luck wouldn't leave him. He left the first one junior college he settled on, Schoolcraft College (Mich.), because of poor living conditions; and his second school, Indian Hills Community College (Iowa) because they wanted him to play immediately regardless of a groin injury he was suffering from. He ended up redshirting at Trinity Valley Community College (Tex.) which allowed him to heal up.

The Cardinals patience with the guard was greatly rewarded. He led Trinity Valley in scoring (17.4 points per game), rebounding (6.4), assists (10.0) and steals (3.1). His 17.4 points per game was fifth in Region XIV and he shot 109-of-244 (.447) from the field on the year. He also shot 75 percent (120-of-160) from the free throw line, and averaged eight free throw attempts per game. His fine play earned him first-team All-Region XIV honors.

"I do a good job of seeing the floor, penetrating, and leading the team," he said as he described his skills. "I'm a fearless and aggressive player, who plays with a lot of emotion. I need to work on my outside shot to be a complete player. I have a good shooting touch, just need to be more consistent." Due to the fact that he played only one year of junior college basketball, yet completed his AA degree in under two years, Atuahene will have three years of eligibility left.

Even though pre-season practices have barely started, word is that great things are expected from Atuahene – a fact that he is hardly oblivious to. "I feel the expectations that have been put on me by the coaching staff," he admitted. "That's why they recruited me – to be a strong point guard, with leadership capabilities. They want me to go up against all the good point guards in the Pac-10, without feeling that we don't have what it takes to match up with them."

"I won't be disappointed if I'm not starting, but I'll be disappointed if I'm not an impact player," Atuahene continued. "I can make an impact off the bench too. Marvin Williams, the second pick in the last NBA draft, came off the bench on his own team. If you're an impact player, you may not start the game but you'll finish it and that's what matters."

The guard, who chose the Sun Devils over Illinois, Indiana, and Texas A&M, is getting used to his new surroundings and the challenges that they bring. "I like the scenery, and people are very friendly here," he commented. "When you see guys like Ike Diogu and Jason Braxton come back and hang with the boys, you can tell that there's a lot of team unity and guys looking out for each other…I'm working on my time management and getting used to the schedule, but I'm fine with that." Even though he has lived most of his live in Canada, he feels that he's quite past the point where he needs to adjust living in the United States. "I've been in and out of the U.S. since my freshman year in high school. I don't have to go through a transition period."

Atuahene, and the long journey that brought him to ASU, not only make him appreciate what he has accomplished thus far, but also inspire him to play his best. "A lot of things motivate me to play better," he explained. "Having a tough road to get here, coming from Canada, being in and out of junior colleges…that makes me really want to bring it every time I step on the court."

The desire to win, especially in what some are calling a must win season for ASU, is naturally the greatest motivator. "Yeah, there's pressure and you see a lot of people talk down to the program," said Atuahene. "But all that is doing is being a driving point, and forcing you to see how far you can push yourself to be a good player. When you feel like stopping and not trying harder, you remember that this what people are expecting you to do – to not be a good player and for your team to finish last (in the Pac-10). I strive being the underdog anyway, so I'll turn every negative into a positive."

Recruit Profile

Name

Antwi Atuahene

Community College

"Trinity Valley Community College (Athens, Tex.)

Position

Guard

Height

6-2

Weight

209

Date of birth

12/17/84

Birthplace

Toronto, Ontario

Nickname

"Twee" or "Birdman"

Favorite TV show

"Anything that's on BET."

Favorite movie

"Belly"

Favorite singer/band

"Jay-Z"

Favorite food

"Lasagna"

Favorite drink

"Fruit Punch"

Favorite athlete

"Michael Jordan"

Favorite pro team

"Chicago Bulls"

Person you most admire

"Both my parents. They fought through a lot of struggles to raise me."

First basketball memory

"The first time I ever played with my older brothers and other older kids. That was the first time they let me play with them. I was schooling the best dudes in the park, so they let me play again after I did that (laughs)."

One thing most people don't know about me

"I'm a very creative thinker, and I have the gift of gab (smile)."

Why did you choose ASU?

"The coaching staff. This team is a good situation for me, and the coaching staff welcomed me with open arms."

Where do you want to be in ten years?

"Successful – whether it's basketball or not."

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