Egekeze Bouncing Back From Injury

After missing five months of action with a knee injury, Huntley junior forward Amanze Egekeze is working his way back to 100 percent. Although Huntley's postseason ended early with a road loss to Rockford East in the host's Class 4A regional semifinal, the 6-7 junior is looking forward to the club basketball season with the Illinois Wolves.

The Red Raiders finished 17-9 and Amanze, a three-star power forward according to Scout.com, still garnered Northwest Herald Second Team All-Area honors, but he was just recovering from knee surgery that had kept him out for the entire offseason and the first few months of Huntley's regular season.

"Amanze was out August through January after the knee injury and surgery," Illinois Wolves coach Mike Mullins said. "He's just been playing about a month so he's adjusting to that. We you've been off 5-6 months, it takes some time to get going."

For Amanze, it was difficult making the comeback at first, but he had plenty of support.

"It was a little bit tough at first but I had support from a lot of people and my AAU coach, Coach Mullins, told me that it would be more mental than anything else," Egekeze said. "After surgery and therapy it was explained to me that the damage had been fixed and there really wasn't much I could do to hurt it. So that helped me mentally and I could play a bit looser. The first two weeks (back from the injury) were rough; I hadn't played in five months. So I had to build my stamina. I just wanted to be out there and help my team."

Still, Amanze and Mullins both are excited by his progress as he nears the club basketball season with the Illinois Wolves.

"The goal that we set was to be back to normal by late February/Early March and I achieved that so now I'm focused on AAU," Amanze said.

"(Amanze) looks great, I know he doesn't have strength or the mental part, but it was great to have him get some games in as the season ended," Mullins said.

The beginning of club basketball season also turns up the focus on recruiting, where Amanze has a few offers, including one from DePaul.

Amanze also claimed scholarship offers from Wright State, Toledo, Indiana State, Dartmouth and Loyola. Egekeze and Mullins also confirmed varying degrees of interest from the Ivy League –specifically Columbia and Harvard -- Stanford, Providence, Belmont, Tulsa, Wisconsin, Davidson, Colorado State, Boston College, and Northwestern's previous staff under Bill Carmody.

The recruiting process is still in the early stages for Egekeze, but he has one official visit in mind.

"A lot of (my recruiting) will depend on how the spring goes," Egekeze said. "I'll probably see Dartmouth for an official visit sometime this year, but I'll play out the spring. I'm not sure of my other official visits."

The process may still be playing out in Egekeze's recruitment, but he already knows what he's looking for in a college program.

"Academics; my family is big on my education," Amanze said. "For my parents it's probably their biggest focus because my family really values education."

"Atmosphere of the college, relationship with the coaching staff, players, and the school overall is important. I know there isn't really a ‘perfect fit' but if I trust the players and the coaches and they believe in me then that's the school that I want to go to."

While Dartmouth has gained the recruiting advantage of a likely official visit, Amanze is still very interested in DePaul's program.

"I've visited DePaul and I'd like to visit again. It really depends on the schools that are interested in me and if they want us to visit. I want to see all of the schools that have offered me again as well," Egekeze said. "I've visited the campus I think three times now and I've talked to all of the coaching staff. Coach Purnell will talk with me through text sometimes and Coach Garrett came out to a game and also saw me workout."

While on campus visits to DePaul, Amanze got a feel for what life on campus could be like in Lincoln Park.

"DePaul's campus is nice. They have the urban/city atmosphere, which they explained as we walked around. It's got a Chicago feel and it's close to home but you can still escape from all of the noise if you choose to. Everything is close to campus and there are a lot of jobs in the city and a lot of chances for internships," Egekeze said.

While Amanze mentioned being in contact with head coach Oliver Purnell and assistant coach Billy Garrett, it's his relationship with associate head coach Dr. Ron Bradley that is the strongest.

"I usually talk to Coach Bradley; he was one of the first coaches to reach out," Amanze said. "He's been by my high school for workouts and come out to a couple of games and I talked to him on the visits."

When the talk basketball, Coach Bradley has an idea of where Amanze fits into DePaul's plans.

"Coach Bradley is really honest with me, and so is the coaching staff," Amanze said. "They tell me what they like about my game but they also tell me what I need to improve on."

"Coach Bradley tells me I'm more of a 4/3, and I've been a post for most of my life so the last two years I've really hit my guard skills hard because my coaches tell me that I'll be more useful as a 3 at the next level. I like going outside, but I'm more comfortable inside. Coach Bradley wants me to be a 3/4 instead of a 4/3 because I'll be more effective."

Hearing the assessment of coaches like Dr. Bradley helped fuel Amanze to work hard on his perimeter skills while his knee was injured. It also gave him a chance to continue lifting weights.

"One of the biggest things I did was try to improve my upper body strength by building muscle and adding weight," Egekeze said. "In therapy sometimes they treat you like a normal person and not an athlete, so I had to really push myself sometimes."

I would sit and work on ball handling, working on shooting and my form and I tried to shoot every day and shoot free throws."

Mullins gave WeAreDePaul .com an assessment on where Amanze's game stands after his return at Huntley during the high school season.

"(Amanze's) skills have improved tremendously, he's shooting out to the three-point line, he uses both hands inside, and he's improved off dribble the dribble," Mullins said. "He's consistent shooting the ball and a back to the basket threat with a motor. He's improved his all-around game and that increases scholarship chances. He's versatile, can guard more people, and create more mismatches."

Mullins further believes that with the landscape of current college basketball that Amanze will be a valuable addition to many programs.

"More colleges are playing small ball; playing 4-out, 1-in. Everyone is playing three or four guards or guard-like players surrounded by a physical specimen in the middle," Mullins said. "(Amanze) can handle, pass, shoot, has good range and the skill part of the game so he'll fit any program looking for one of those players. Amanze can shoot and score the ball and has proven that at the high school level and the travel level. He has a good frame, can guard the interior and can score inside but he's also expanded his game."

Amanze will play again this spring with the Under Armour-sponsored Illinois Wolves, one of the best travel programs in the country. Egekeze enjoys the opportunity to practice and play with the Wolves and Mike Mullins.

"It's a great privilege and an honor to play for them and Coach Mullins, Coach (Carl) Maniscalco, and the staff. They are one of the best coaching staffs in the country," Amanze said. "They know how to get the best out of players and help get players prepared for D1. They've helped me become a better player and a better man and a better player each time I step on the floor. We have a lot of talent on our team, but we play hard in practice because nothing is guaranteed."


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