Iowa Offers Nzei

Michael Nzei started his AAU season later than most players this spring. When the Nigerian forward finally got on the court, he made up for lost time. Iowa was among an impressed group colleges and offered a scholarship. Find out more about Nzei's recruitment in this premium story.

Michael Nzei is all over the court. His coach says that's what separates him from others.

"He's just a forward," Eric Jaklitsch said. "He plays three for us. He played some four. He played some five. He doesn't really have a set position.

"He's the type of player that plays hard; has a non-stop motor. He makes a lot of things happen without having to have plays run for him. He's just got a warrior's mentality. He plays every possession like it's his last."

Nzei joined Jaklitsch's Our Savior New America School program in Centereach, N.Y. last year. The 6-foot-7, 200-pounder left his native Nigeria to better his chances of earning a college basketball scholarship.

The move was encouraged by Nzei's friend and countryman, Chris Obekpa, a Top 100 player in the 2012 Class from Our Savior. He ended up at St. John's, where he led the nation in blocked shots (4.03) as a freshman last season.

While Obekpa is boisterous, Nzei (pronounced N-zee) is reserved.

"Michael is a quiet, respectful kid," Jaklitsch said. "He's a good student. He's very well liked by his peers."

Jaklitsch said his star forward has picked up scholarship offers from Iowa, St. Joe's, Iona and Hofstra. Pittsburgh and Oregon are showing interest.

"We haven't really set up any plans for visits," the coach said. "He's out playing at the Adidas Nations right now. He still has to take his SATs before he can take any official visits."

The next date to take the SAT is Oct. 5. The week-long early signing period begins Nov. 13.

Jaklitsch was unsure if Nzei would pen is national letter of intent in the fall or wait until the spring period, which begins on April 16.

"I couldn't tell you either way," the coach said. "It all depends on the (recruiting) process. Michael is a good student. There aren't any academic concerns. It's just getting through the process."

Jaklitsch said Iowa Head Coach Fran McCaffery called him last week to extend a scholarship offer to Nzei.

"(McCaffery) told me that he saw (Nzei) at two separate events (Nike Global Challenge and The8)," Jaklitsch said. "He just absolutely loved Michael's motor and how hard he plays. He admired how he doesn't need plays run for him to make things happen. He said that he thought he was one of the most impressive players he saw on the court the entire summer.

"I'm familiar with Fran because he was a coach at Siena and Lehigh. I know the type of job he's done at his previous stops."

The8 was put on by NBA all-star Chris Paul and featured eight of the nation's top AAU teams. Nzei scored 16 points (7 of 7 from the floor) and grabbed nine rebounds in a 58-50 win for the New Jersey Playaz against Chicago Meanstreets and fellow Iowa target Tyler Ulis.

In three games at The8, Nzei averaged 15.0 points on 19 of 26 shooting from the field, 11.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks.

"I think Mike just wants to go some place where there's available playing time," Jaklitsch said of what Nzei seeks in a college. "Mike is the kind of guy that can play in a fast-paced environment. His motor is non-stop.

"I think any schools that run a fast-paced system would be a great fit for Michael. He's always giving 110 percent effort."

Jaklitsch doesn't see the location of the college being a factor in Nzei's decision since he already has moved far from his native country.

Nzei missed the early evaluation periods this spring due to a rule that kept him off of the court until he completed his first academic year at a U.S. school.

"I think a lot more schools are learning about him just from the standpoint that he wasn't able top play in April in front of college coaches which kind of hurt his recruitment a little bit," Jaklitsch said. "July was really the first time he got out there on a national stage."

Hawkeye Insider Top Stories