Nnanna Egwu Feeling Well, Ready To Sign

The Fighting Illini basketball team looks forward to signing one of the nation's best classes Wednesday. One of those ready to enroll next fall is center Nnanna Egwu. He is now practicing again after back surgery and hopes to make up for lost time. He is excited to be a future Illini.

St. Ignatius center Nnanna Egwu committed to Illinois a year ago. He is relieved signing day has finally arrived.

"It's exciting. I can't wait until it gets here."

He is especially pleased to be part of a recruiting class that includes fellow stars Tracy Abrams, Mycheal Henry and Mike Shaw.

"Yeah, especially with three of the four being from the Catholic League and the other one being from the Public League. That's very exciting. All of us figure to contribute to Illinois next year. It should be really fun playing with those guys. What we can all bring to the table next year is really exciting. Illinois is gonna be really good."

Egwu took up basketball a little more than three years ago. He is a hard worker who loves the game and wants to keep learning and improving. He was making tremendous progress last spring as he starred for the Illinois Wolves AAU team.

"With the Wolves, we play a lot games so things started coming faster and faster. It felt pretty good. I was getting more comfortable. Things that were taking me a long time to learn before, I just started to do it."

Unfortunately, he then suffered an injury that was misdiagnosed as a hip inflammation. He was encouraged to play on it during the July AAU season, but he wasn't close to his original level of play. He could play only brief minutes at a time, and he lost his explosiveness and ability to run the floor.

"I tried to play with it, but it definitely affected how I played. I was just trying to do what I can to help the Wolves. As a team, we were pretty good even without me. That's the way we were. You could take any of our best players away and we'd still win. I tried to help and do the best I can, but the injury set me back a little bit."

Finally a doctor figured out the real problem, a herniated disc in his back. He underwent surgery in August and was forced to sit out while his back healed. The wait was hard on him.

"Yeah, not playing basketball for three months. Just watching other teams play while I sat down and not play was difficult. But thankfully I'm now back to full health."

Doctor clearance was great news for the young 6'-9", 230 pounder.

"I was cleared to start working out about two weeks ago. It took awhile first few days, trying to get in shape. But that came back real quick.

"I don't think I'm back to the way I should be, but I'm back to where I can play with my other teammates. The instinctive moves will probably come as I get more used to it. Hopefully, I'll continue to make progress."

Egwu knows he won't feel totally back to normal until he plays real games again.

"You can do these things in practice. But when you accomplish them in games, that's when your confidence shoots up. I haven't lost my confidence due to my injury. What really hurt was I didn't get back in time to play in the fall league.

"But I think scrimmaging with my teammates will help me get back to the way I was in May. It may take a little bit, play a few games to get the feel of it. But I think after that I'll be fine."

He hopes his senior year at Chicago St. Ignatius will see success for him and the team.

"It's gonna be all about defense this year. Offensively, if our four guards do what we expect them to do, we'll be all right. But we can be one of the top defensive teams in the state this year. Defense is how you win ball games. If we want to win a lot of games, it will be on D."

Egwu specializes in defense and especially shot blocking. With good explosion off the floor, a long reach and good timing, he is a shot-blocking machine when healthy. He still must refine his offensive game, but he is developing a good 15 foot jumper. He looks forward to contributing to the Fighting Illini and believes success is ahead.

"If we can play as a team and play Coach (Bruce) Weber's style of both offense and defense, I think we can be a top 10 team in the nation next year. We should be a top 10 team this year.

"Looking at the talent level and everything we have, we have a chance to do something special down there in a few years, I can tell you that."

Egwu is undecided on a major, but he has an interest in Business. As hard as he works and as much as he has already improved in a short amount of time, his best years are ahead of him.

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