Bloomington –Bawa Muniru's primary focus this season is making sure that all of his hard work on the basketball court doesn't go for naught.
That's why there's nothing that's happening on the basketball court that's more important than what's unfolding in the class room for the 6'11", 250-pound IU signee. Muniru is enrolled at Mt. Zion Academy in Durham, N.C., with the goal of making sure he's eligible to enroll at IU next fall and play for Coach Tom Crean.
That's why Muniru says when either Crean or IU assistant coach Roshown McLeod calls him to talk, the first topic of conversation is academics.
"First and foremost, the most important thing is to get my grades down to be eligible to play," Muniru said Tuesday. "No matter how hard I work at basketball, if I don't get my grades taken care of and get eligible, all the hard work will mean nothing if I can't get out on the court and participate. That's the number one thing they stress to me."
While there's still work to be done, Muniru says he's well on his way to making that happen. He'll be tackling a heavy academic load this year complete with plenty of NCAA-required core courses, but he's confident that he'll fulfill the requirements on be on IU's campus next fall.
"Everything is going well, and I feel I'll definitely be eligible to play," Muniru said.
Academics might be priority one for Muniru, but he's also been working on his game as well at the powerhouse prep school. Muniru has been a key player in his debut season at Mt. Zion as the team's starting center, and his role figures to only expand after a couple of recent departures. Earlier this month Mt. Zion dismissed Oklahoma State signee Karron Johnson as well as Curtis Loving from the team, leaving it to Muniru and others to pick up the slack for the remainder of the season.
"Right now we're having a team chemistry issue and we're working on that," Muniru said. "We lost a couple of good players, but we're trying to rebuild right now from what we have."
With the loss of Johnson, Muniru becomes an even more important player on both ends of the court. While his rebounding and shot blocking abilities were a given when he arrived on campus in the fall, he's also being asked to be a primary scorer as well.
"I've been starting, getting a lot of minutes, and I'm a big part of the puzzle for the team," Muniru said. "They're looking to me to score a lot of points, rebound, blocks shots and run the floor. They're also wanting me to be a team leader, making sure we're communicating on the floor. If you don't do that things can go astray, and I've been trying to bring that to the table."
That are the sort of things that Crean and his staff will be looking from from Muniru next fall. Muniru knows he still has work to do to make sure that happens, but he's already looking forward to the opportunity he'll have when he arrives in Bloomington.
"I had a lot of options, UCLA, USC, and for me it was about figuring out where I was needed, where I could go and be a big fish, be a contributor for their program," Muniru said. "Indiana came along, and I feel Indiana is the right place for me."
Checking In With Bawa Muniru
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