Indianapolis, Ind. – Kelvin Sampson's first priority might be targeting Indiana's best preps, but that's not going to keep him from looking far away as well for elite talent.
Case in point: Lagos, Nigeria's Ayodele Coker.
Actually, the 6-10, 245-pound Coker plays stateside, having spent his junior season at Connecticut prep school powerhouse South Kent. But Coker moved from Nigeria just eight months ago, with the goal of blossoming as a basketball player.
"It's normal for players back in Nigeria to want to come over here," Coker said.
It's been a rapid rise for Coker, who said he began playing basketball only two years ago. During those two years he's grown into a player who was good enough to come to the U.S. to continue his development, and now into one who is getting interest from a plethora of big-name college basketball programs.
Among those who have been showing interest are Indiana, Connecticut, St. John's, Alabama, South Carolina, Wake Forest and UMass.
Coker said one of the Indiana assistants has been in contact with him about the Hoosier program, and they've also been in touch with his coach at South Kent, Raphael Chillious.
"The (Indiana) coach called (Chillious) first, and he told me to call the coach," Coker said. "When I spoke to him he told me stuff about the school and it seems like a very good school and a very good program."
With less than a year in the U.S., Coker said he's relying a great deal on Chillious to help him through the recruiting process.
"He does basically everything for me (with recruiting)," Coker said. "It's all very new to me. Coach is helping me with knowing who's good and who isn't."
Getting familiar with recruiting hasn't been the only adjustment for Coker. He's also had to adapt to style of play in the U.S., which he says is very different from what he was used to in Nigeria.
"It's very aggressive in Nigeria," Coker said. "They don't call all fouls. Actually, they don't call fouls much, so it's a lot more aggressive there than it is here."
That was something Coker had to quickly adapt to once he started playing for South Kent.
"My first game I fouled out in five minutes," Coker joked. "So I had to calm down a little bit."
Coker has been making the adjustment, and continues to blossom into a promising recruit. A good athlete who runs the floor well and is an excellent rebounder, Coker is already an intimidating defensive presence. It's on the offensive end where he knows he needs to get better.
"I work on every area of my game, because I know I still have a lot to learn," said Coker, who averaged five points and seven rebounds last season at South Kent. "The biggest thing is working on my offense because I don't score very much right now. A big man who can rebound and score is a real good strength for a team."
One thing that's accelerated Coker's development is the opportunity to play at South Kent. Chillious' squad had three players sign Division I scholarships last season – Gilbert Brown (Pitt), Rob Thomas (St. John's) and Hermann Opoku (George Washington). Also on the team were two other '07 prospects who figure to sign Division I scholarships in Washington-bound Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Dragoslav Papic.
"Being there helps a lot," Coker said. "I get to play competitive basketball every time we practice. It has really improved my game."
Last year's experience, coupled with the added confidence he's developed thanks to a strong showing at last week's Nike All-America Camp, has Coker excited about what he can do as a senior.
"Last year was good, but I wasn't satisfied with how I played," Coker said. "I know I can play better, but the fact I just got here and I wasn't used to the way people play here, I struggled with that a little. I know I'll do better next year because I'm used to it now. And this experience will help me a lot also when I get back to school."
Coker Emerges As Hoosier Target
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