3-star Houston big man Morris Udeze earns Illini offer

Illini offer three-star Texas big man who has developed rapidly since picking up a basketball three years ago

Morris Udeze's father, Felix Ihegworo, immigrated to the United States from Nigeria when he was 17 years old and raised his children in Houston.

But when Morris was in the fourth grade, his father made a decision few seem to make. He moved most of his family back to Nigeria.

"We did that because my dad wanted me to know my roots and where I'm from," Udeze said. "He built a house over there and everything. He just wanted to show us what's going down in Nigeria."


Felix and his four sons -- Morris' mother, Emelda Ihegworo, remained in the states to work but traveled to Africa frequently -- lived in Nigeria for four years before fully moving back to the Houston area. 

"It was a very good experience," Udeze said.

Udeze developed into a high-level soccer player during his time in Africa but finally picked up a basketball when he came back to the states for his eighth grade year.

"I wasn't thinking about basketball," Udeze said. "Basketball wasn't an option (in Nigeria). I was a really good soccer player. I was interested in playing for a big club over there and everything. But we didn't stay there for too long."

While Udeze certainly had the height and athleticism to play basketball, he had little idea of how to play the game.

"In eighth grade, surprisingly I was like B team reserve," Udeze said. "I wasn't good at all."

Just three years later, Udeze now has a Big Ten scholarship offer. Illinois extended an offer to the 6-foot-8 Class of 2018 Richmond (Texas) Travis center on Monday.

"It's pretty big," Udeze said. "It's a Big Ten school. It's really one of my first major offers. It really means a lot.

"I'm growing pretty well. From the eighth grade until now I've made big developments. I really think soccer helped me with my footwork in the post and all that. I did a lot of lateral drills, calf raises and stuff to help with my footwork in the post."

Udeze also holds offers from Wichita State, Murray State, New Mexico State, Albany and Lamar. He said Indiana, Northwestern and Florida Gulf Coast are also showing some interest.

Illinois offered Udeze after watching him on the AAU circuit last month. Illini assistant coach Orlando Antigua has been in contact with the Texas big man.

"I've talked to them a couple times," Udeze said. "(Antigua) just texted me a couple minutes ago. Me and him are doing pretty good. I mean we still need to build a relationship because they just offered me yesterday, so we're just really starting to build a relationship as of right now. He likes my game. He likes my inside-out game. He watched me a couple games."

The Wichita State offer also sticks out.

"Wichita State was a big offer for me because I really like the coaching staff," Udeze said. "Everything's going good down there. It's really solid."

Udeze said he models his game after one young star (Karl-Anthony Towns) and one Hall of Famer (Karl Malone).

"Players who are tough in the post and have that midrange," Udeze said. "I play like that. My strengths are rebounding, finishing in the post, playing above the rim, shooting mid-range. I need to work on my dribbling skills and shooting threes, stuff like that."

Udeze is trying to take his recruiting in stride and not get too overwhelmed with the new rush of high-major interest.

"It's been really tough," Udeze said. "I really like the schools that have offered me so far. I'm still open, wide open with my recruiting right now."

After all, three years ago, Udeze was returning from a four-year stay in Nigeria -- and basketball wasn't much of a thought in his mind. Now, he and his parents are realizing that basketball will open up a new world of opportunity.

"They're really not used to it, but I think my parents are enjoying it," Udeze said. "My mom's excited, my dad's excited because we've been hoping and praying for this and it's happened."

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