Two years ago, when emerging big man Ejike Obinna arrived at Virginia Academy (Ashburn, Va.) from Nigeria, one of the first calls head coach Duval Simmons put in was to Maryland assistant Bino Ranson.
Simmons, who also heads the unaffiliated Uncommon Bulls AAU program, had known Ranson for years, the two developing a close rapport on the circuit. So, when the raw but athletic 6-foot-9 Nigerian showed up in Ashburn, Va., Simmons figured the Terps should know about him.
“I reached out to Coach Bino to let him know there was a very good player now in the region, and Coach Bino ended up following Ejike’s progress these last two years,” Simmons explained. “[The Terps] could have easily forgotten about him, but Coach Bino watched him progress, and after [the coaches] saw him at the Under Armour camp and the Under Armour Finals, they finally decided to offer. So that was pretty cool for all of us to see, that Maryland, one of the first schools we reached out to, stayed on him all this time and then offered.”
Indeed, UMD head coach Mark Turgeon approved the now-6-10, 230-pounder’s offer July 18. Turgeon apparently called Simmons from Chile, where the Maryland headman is currently coaching Team USA.
“Coach Turgeon reached out to us from Chile and said he was able to see Ejike at the Under Armour camp in Charlotte. [Turgeon said] he worked hard, he had a high motor, was an excellent student and is the type of kid they want in the program,” Simmons said. “Coach Bino, he saw Ejike in Charlotte and at the UA Finals, and he loved [Obinna’s] energy.
“But Ejike has been on the rise for the past year or so. He’s a kid with multiple offers, and a lot of schools are starting to pick up things of late. He doesn’t play on the Under Armour, Adidas or Nike circuits, so that’s why not a lot of people didn’t know about him until [the July live periods]. Under Armour had an open division where teams that aren’t sponsored get invited, so college coaches were able to see him because of that. Maryland was one of the schools that saw him at both camps and liked what they saw.”
Some of the other programs that liked what they saw include Miami, Clemson, Va Tech, Seton Hall, Xavier, LSU, TAMU, TCU, St. Joe’s, Temple, George Mason and Georgia Tech. Simmons said Obinna has yet to pare down his list, nor has he expressed interest in any programs in particular. That said, the Nigerian native has taken unofficial visits to Xavier, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Va Tech and George Mason.
“Right now, he’s just taking things in. Maybe in the next couple months he’ll start to narrow everything down,” Simmons said. “At this time he really hasn’t said anything about which schools he really liked or which schools he really wants to visit. The plan is for him to take all five of his officials, though.”
Simmons called Obinna a high-ceiling recruit, but his forte right now is on the defensive end.
“He brings shot blocking, rebounding, toughness and the ability to score in the post,” Simmons said. “And he’s just an overall good kid, he’s very respectful and there are no issues with him.
“But one of the things, to expand his game, is to continue developing his 15-foot jumper. He also just needs to keep working on his post moves like all young kids his size. But his best years of basketball are ahead of him, and he’s only going to get better once he’s in a college program.”