Recruiting: Sooners in the mix for top junior

Houston, Texas forward Steve Tchiengang talks about his journey to America from Cameroon and his interest in Oklahoma.

Steve Tchiengang, PF, 6'8, HOUSTON (CYPRESS), TEXAS:

One of the most intriguing prospects for 2008 is forward Steve Tchiengan from Houston Cypress, Texas. When you consider the fact that the 235-pound Cameroon native has just recently picked up the game and you already notice how well he plays the game, then you begin to realize that they sky is the limit for this prospect.

"Three years ago one of my family members asked me why I wasn't playing basketball," said Tchiengan. "I said, 'I like soccer.' So he invited me to try the game. I tried it and he said that I had a good chance to make the team at my school. So, we started to work out in basketball once or twice a week and then we made the school team. Basketball is different in my country in that you play for the school team or you don't play at all.

"So I played and I had so much exposure. I did really well my junior year and I was selected among the 100 best athletes in Africa. I played in an all-star game in Africa and from there I got into contact with some coaches over here and things started from there. I ended up in Houston at Cypress High School. I was able to make some contacts from South Africa and a friend of my family was able to get me to the United States."

Tchiengan is averaging 15 points, 11 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 blocks thus far his junior season, but he is still trying to play up to his level of expertise that he had in soccer.

"I am really good in soccer. But my dad is a teacher, which in my country makes it kind of hard to really get into a sport," said Tchiengan. "So playing soccer was a tough thing for my dad to let me do. He didn't want me to be in any type of athletics. I was really good in soccer and I could have gone far with it. We have so many good soccer players in our country and we are known as one as the No. 1 country in Africa for soccer. We are one of the best in the world for soccer.

"I was really good in soccer, but I changed my mind about what sport to play because I thought basketball looked more fun to play. I just really enjoyed it. Plus, you play basketball indoors. Even when we didn't have an indoor court in Africa, I just liked the game better. There were not as many players on the court in basketball and you can work on your game by yourself. So I have learned to really enjoy basketball better."

Tchiengan was just learning the game while living in Cameroon, but now that he is playing in the United States his game is getting better by the day.

"There is no way to measure that because I think my game is totally different now," said Tchiengan. "I played something that looked like basketball back home, but here I think I am starting to play basketball like it is supposed to be played. I didn't have any fundamentals back then and now my game has changed tremendously. There is no comparison with my game now and what it was back home. I can now do so many things the right way besides just doing it for fun like I used to do back home. My game has changed a lot for the better."

Tchiengan is very athletic and despite his limited experience with the game of basketball, he is quickly learning that he can do a number of different things on the floor.

"Back home I was playing point guard because we really didn't have anybody that could handle the ball, and I was pretty good at it," said Techiengan. "So I sometimes had a chance to take the ball up and down the court. When I came to Houston I was put in the box down low and adapted to playing there. I started to get stronger and I worked on moves that would help me down there. So I have developed a good low-post game.

"Then after my freshman season I started working on my shooting and I have worked to step out and shoot further and further from the basket. We have been working on my shooting and my ballhandling since my freshman and that is why my game is developing."

Tchiengan has become a hot commodity with college recruiters because of his athletic ability and his quickly developing game. Oklahoma was one of the first teams to develop a relationship.

"OU Coach Jeff Capel is a real nice man and I really enjoy talking to him," said Tchiengan. "He is a good Christian. I just like that coming from a coach and I respect that a lot. OU has a lot of players that I like on the team. Coach Capel is young, but he has been around basketball his whole life. He has played the game so he knows what players are going through and he has family who is coaching in the NBA. The thing I like the most about coach Capel is that he is real down to earth and real easy to talk to."

And that relationship with Capel has put the Sooners in the hunt for his signature.

"I like Oklahoma, but I need to get some more facts so that I can come to an intelligent decision," said Tchiengan. "I need to get some more ideas about what it is like to go to school there. That is really the case with all the schools that I am considering."

Tchiengan says that he is wide open and that he is not looking to narrow down his decision at this point, but he does admit that he has been offered by Oklahoma, Clemson, Texas A&M, Baylor, Indiana, Memphis, USC, Miami and Boston College, just to name a few.

We also know that Iowa State, Louisville, Auburn and Florida have offered him as well. At this point it is very clear that Tchiengan is not sure who he will sign with or who he will visit, but it does look as if the Sooners will get their chance to impress the Cameroon native.

"I will visit Oklahoma. I know that," said Tchiengan. "I have to work that out with my family because I am not sure if I will take official or unofficial visits. I may not have to take any official visits, I may just take unofficial visits. I am planning on making a visit of some kind to Oklahoma, but I don't know when."

Tchiengan may still be sorting out what schools he is interested in, but he knows what he will be looking for when he does figure out who he wants to visit.

"Playing time will be one of the first things that I look it," said Tchiengan. "Then how successful is that school at turning good players into really good players. I just want to know how well the overall program is doing. And then, of course, the type of education I can get at each school. I want to go to a school that I can improve and get some playing time. I don't want to go somewhere and just sit, because that is not what I expect. I know that I have to work my way into some playing time or the starting line-up or whatever. But I at least want an opportunity. I am a hard worker and I can make it happen, so it is just a matter of getting a chance. That is what I am looking for."

Tchiengan admits he has not been a college basketball fan and that all the recruiting attention has taken him by surprise.

"Just three years ago I didn't have any college coaches talking to me," said Tchiengan. "So this is all new to me. I am trying to do the right thing and just keep working on my game and working hard."

That strategy is working as Tchiengang is not longer a secret to college coaches, and they will be calling him in bunches to make up for lost time.

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