Goodluck Okonoboh: In 1994 my parents had come over from Nigeria, and my dad was a taxi driver. My father was driving a taxi and he picked up three guys with black hoodies who gave him the destination address and told them where they wanted to go, which ended up being a dead end. At the dead end, they paid for the ride and one guy came to my dad's window and pulled out a gun, a 22 caliber, and he shot my dad in the chest.
A 22 caliber bullet, that just goes straight through you. Once it's shot through you, it moves throughout your whole body. Like if a 22 is shot in the top of your head, it can come out your ear or someplace totally different, that's what kind of bullet it is. The bullet went through my dad's body and it went through his heart. When he went to the hospital, the doctor told my mom, who was already nine months pregnant with me, that they didn't think he was going to make it. They told my mom that if she wanted to put him on life support they could, but they didn't think it would accomplish anything. My mom decided to put him on life support and the very next day, she and most of my family came in, and everything had turned and he was going to make it. Then, the very next week I was born and my father named me Goodluck because he said not every baby is lucky to have their father.
That's an amazing story--what does it mean to carry that name that your dad gave you-knowing the story behind it?
You know, sometimes I may forget for a little bit, but then I remember my name, and I just embrace it. It's like a reminder that I'm here for a reason, that stuff happens in my life for a reason. It really affects my motivation a lot.
It's not everyday that someone's father gets shot through their heart and then being named Goodluck, and you grow up to 6-foot-9, and be highly recruited to play basketball. To me, that's just a blessing. Everything happens for a reason and it was just meant to be for me to have that name.
Can you describe how that motivates you on and off the court?
From that, I don't like to cut anything short in any given moment. Like my dad, he lives in the moment, he doesn't worry about tomorrow or what's already happened, he just lives for the moment because he knows that your life can be gone in a moment. That's the way I approach life everyday, I go hard everyday, because tomorrow isn't promised and yesterday is yesterday.
Have you grown up your whole life in the USA?
Yes, always on the East Coast.
Do you have any favorite sports teams growing up?
I'm a Boston fan myself. The Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins. I gotta go with Big Papi, and on the Celtics I gotta go with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, I look up to those guys. For the Boston Bruins, I'm not going to lie, I don't know every single player, but there's one kid, his name is Tyler Seguin, he's pretty good for being so young.
What got you interested in those teams?
Just me living in the area, Boston pride. You grow up, you love those teams, because what they are doing, they are playing for us.
Respectfully, did the Boston Marathon Bombing affect you personally?
I'm blessed to say that I didn't know anybody that was affected by it, but that was still really hard to deal with it. I was working out when it happened, I quickly called back home to see how everybody was doing. It hit close to home you know?
Sounds like you are close with your mom and dad, are they close by to you?
I go to school in Springfield, MA but my family lives in Boston, so I'm about an hour and a half away from them when I'm at school.
Do you visit the Basketball Hall of Fame often in Springfield?
I actually got to play there earlier this year against Worcester Academy.
What was that like?
It was a blessing and an honor, we ended up losing the game by like three points I think, but it was a great atmosphere, the crowd was packed. I got MVP of that game, had a great game.
You're known as a big time shot blocker, is that something you worked to develop?
People definitely know I can do that, and it's just something you just do. It's all about practice, just like with your offensive repertoire. I had the opportunity to play against the best shot blocker in the country, Nerlens Noel. You learn stuff from him and it's all about timing, shot-blocking is a great thing to have in your game.
What kind of things are you working on as a player?
My post development, my mid range is coming along pretty well. When we come in the gym, we don't ever come in and say, we're just going to work on one thing, we kinda work on everything. Handles to jump shots to jump hooks to post moves. You don't want to be one dimensional player and that's why I'm working hard to become a complete player.
From a year ago to now, where you have gotten better?
Oh man, I think everything has improved. A year ago to now I'm a completely different player and I'm not just saying that. From a physical standpoint to my confidence, just everything, I'm becoming a better basketball player.
Post moves wise--what kind do you have in the repertoire?
It's really all about how the defender is defending me, I feel like I have good post moves, sometimes it's about finishing through contact, just depends.
What's your measurements right now?
6-foot-9 and a half, 220 pounds, and I'm not sure what my wingspan is. I haven't had that done since Nike Top 100, but the last time I had it done, my wingspan was around 7 ft 3 I think.
Recruiting wise, how are things going for you?
I'm still very wide open in my recruitment, no schools is greater than the other, I'm looking at everybody the same. It's picked up a lot, it's a tough, humbling experience. Just to know that these schools want you when out of all the kids they could go after, they are choosing to recruit you, you have to be humble about that because I know guys who aren't.
Are you doing a lot of talking with the coaches?
It's actually me, my dad and my AAU coach who are doing the calls, I take some of them and just talk to them, I'm just focused on getting better as a player, making sure my grades are right, i've already taken my ACT/SAT. I'm going to be a qualifier.
Who are some of the coaches that you personally have spoken with?
How many head coaches have you talked with?
A lot of those, I can't even really remember, i've talked with some head coaches, I talk with so many coaches that sometime I forget I'm talking to the head coach.
What kind of things are you listening for when talking with the coaches?
Some coaches, you will get coaches from different schools who some of the stuff they say is the same thing. But then there are other coaches who say stuff and you are like, wow, they have analyzed your game, they know your game and they say things to you about your game that you know nobody else says, things to get you better, it's just different. It's all about separating yourself as a coach these days, that's what we want, we don't want to just hear the same thing every time.
You mentioned Duke recently talked with you…
Yeah, I just talked to Duke. Actually, not even 30 minutes ago before our interview. It was the head assistant coach, and we talked for a good 45 minutes about the school, how they see me fitting in their program, and how much I've developed. He asked if I would have an interest in them, and they said they have a high degree of interest in me and want to recruit me throughout the whole summer and they want to get me on the phone with Coach K and stuff like that.
What are your early impressions of Duke?
It's like a lot, because Duke, everybody knows Duke, if they are calling you, that's big.
What do you feel you know about them now that you have interacted with them personally?
Coach K, that's all you really need to know. They've had a bunch of great players, but Coach K, man, it's his dynasty there.
Did they identify how they see you fitting in?
We haven't really talked about that, but the Duke coach had actually called my AAU coach, and he called my dad too. He's been talking with them so much that this is actually the first time I've even talked with him. We didn't get too deep yet. I know he had good conversations with me and my dad and AAU coach.
How much do your discuss your recruitment with your dad and your AAU coach?
I don't actually all that much, but when it's time to sit down and talk about things, that's when we'll all get together and talk. We haven't talked much about what the coaches have talked about with them.
When the Duke assistant coach said he wants to get you on the phone with Coach K-how did you feel about that?
I felt real good about that for sure.
Have they asked you to visit?
I'm really not sure about any visits anywhere right now, we haven't figured that out yet. My dad is probably going to come with me on the visits.
What does your dad think about the recruiting process?
My dad doesn't really know a whole lot about basketball, but he handles the process well. He knows how to read people, he knows what people are saying, he's helpful to me.
Are there any schools that you know you really like?
No, everybody is even right now.
Is there a plan in place on how to move forward in your recruitment?
I definitely think I'm going to try and sign during the Fall period, but I'm just worried right now about getting better as a player.
Are there any schools that you are hoping to get involved with?
Any school that is interested, I say let them come, that's it.
In watching various games, are there programs you see as a better fit for yourself?
Yeah I do, but I'm still learning. I've been looking at some schools to see how they use their bigs, and stuff like that. Just looking at different schools, but I can't share right now which ones, I'm just looking at different schools, every school does different things.
What things do you look for when you've looked at how the schools play through their bigs?
Well, I'm not just a post player, you know? I can guard anybody, I'm a quick mover, I'm not just a post player.
How does that shape your desired role at the next level?
I want to be a four I think. Someone who plays in the post, and then also on the outside. There's some schools that have had good fours, but I don't want to say which ones right now.