Coaches flock to visit Ejike Obinna

Virginia Academy (VA) junior big man Ejike Obinna made a name for himself last summer on the AAU circuit with the Uncommon Bulls. Following a strong high school season, Obinna is now being tracked heavily by schools from just about every conference in America. He recently hosted six colleges for in-home visits. An in-depth look into Ejike’s game and recruitment is inside.

Ejike Obinna is a legitimate 6’9, pushing 6'10, 230-plus pound post from Virginia Academy (VA) that also boasts a 7’3 wingspan. Obinna’s host father, Ray Matthews, spoke with Hawk Hill Hardwood about a number of topics, ranging from his growth as a player to the recent home visits.

“Ejike’s been working on improving his speed, strength, and agility,” Matthews began. “His free throw shooting percentage has gone way up since last summer. He’s been working on shooting from further from the basket, jump and hook shots, and not just being a presence under the basket. Offensively, he’s showing he can do more now.”

Last weekend, the Uncommon Bulls traveled from Virginia to Staten Island to participate in the Elevate Hoops Spring Showdown. They won their showcase game Friday night against Legit Basketball, then won both games Saturday, against the NJ Pirates and Minnesota Powerhouse, before falling 55-43 on Sunday to the Jersey Shore Warriors in the quarterfinals. This is the final April Live Period, and the Uncommon Bulls are currently participating in Hoop Groups’ Pitt Jam Fest. In July, Matthews said that Ejike would be playing in the Under Armour All American camp in Charlotte as well as the Fab 48 in Las Vegas.

The last two weeks have been hectic in the Matthews household, as six colleges have conducted in-home visits, beginning with Buzz Williams of Virginia Tech on April 8th. Last week, Xavier, Temple, St. Joe’s, DePaul, and Clemson all visited with Obinna.

“We didn’t really know what to expect,” Matthews said of the in-home visits. “For the most part, the visits lasted about an hour and were generally informal, mostly just a conversation. Only one coach came in with a presentation; the rest just talked on a more personal level about themselves, their program and expectations. It was beneficial. On unofficial visits, it’s much more structured, with facility tours, briefings and meeting staff. During the home visits, Ejike opened up and just talked more comfortably with the coaches. It was good to see that and will be helpful to him.”

One of the schools that made the trip down to visit Ejike was Saint Joseph’s. The head Hawk, Phil Martelli, drove to Virginia on Wednesday to meet with Obinna, who the Hawks offered last spring.

“Coach Martelli is a very generous and decent man,” Matthews stated. “He came down and spoke from personal knowledge of Ejike and his situation. And he knew what he wanted to say to Ejike and to us. He asked us all some very good questions and conveyed a genuine concern for Ejike and his development as a whole man. You could tell he was speaking from a place of knowing Ejike, what he’s like as a person, how he fits into his vision for the team and program. There was a greater level of detail and a personal aspect to it.”

In addition to the in-home visit on Wednesday, Ejike Obinna has taken two unofficial visits to Saint Joseph’s. Both of those visits left a positive imprint on Ejike. “I’ll never forget, when we came up for the first visit in 2014, Ejike was able to play with DeAndre (Bembry). He and rest of the team integrated him very quickly in their play and didn’t treat Ejike like an outsider. He was welcomed; they played hard, but passed him the ball and treated him well. I think very highly of DeAndre and appreciate how led the interaction with Ejike in that situation” Matthews continued.

St. Joe's is actively recruiting a number of forwards and centers in the 2017 recruiting class, and it is clear that Ejike Obinna is near the very top of their list. The Hawks have serious competition that they will have to continue to battle. With last week's in-home visit and two unofficial visits to Hawk Hill already, the Hawks are players in Obinna's recruitment. As his recruitment evolves, I will have all the developments here.

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