6'8" 223-pound power forward Davis Nwankwo is one of the up and coming post players in the junior class, earning national attention for his defensive abilities and burgeoning offensive potential. Arguably Stanford's top recruit in this 2004 class, the D.C. area big man is a top talent with an improving game that has caught the eyes of Stanford's coaches since his sophomore year. "Davis is a kid with a super long body," says national recruiting expert Dave Telep of TheInsidersHoops. "Right now his game is geared toward shotblocking and rebounds. He hasn't tapped into his offense yet, but you know that light is going to go off for him. He has above average athletic ability, and a lot of kids his age at his size are still coming along. But his athletic potential could make him a pretty good player. He could earn a spot as a top 100 player by this summer."
After averaging 10 points and nine rebounds his sophomore year, Nwankwo upped the ante his junior year, averaging 14 points and 11 boards per game. He makes athletic plays around the basket, and loves to play a bruising physical style. "I like getting under the basket and dunking the ball or putting up a hook while getting hit," the Maryland junior says. "I like getting fouled. I want to go hard to the basket every time."
But before you paint an imagine in your head of a strict low post banger, know that Nwankwo is light on his feet and runs the floor exceptionally well. He gets up for shot blocks with a big vertical leaping ability, and racks up a bunch of his points racing down the court in transition. "I think the thing I improved the most this year was my speed up and down the floor," he opines. "My goal is to beat every big man up the court and get easy baskets. I'm still working on my quickness and conditioning to get even better. I think my quickness is vertical, too. I'm long and I get a decent number of blocks each game. I can tip a lot of balls."
With a developing arsenal of moves with his back to the basket, Nwankwo is already able to get point in the low post. But he wants to extend the range of his high post game. He is comfortable out to at least 15 feet right now, but would like to extend that to the three-point line. "I'd like to have the ability to play like a wing, offensively," he admits. His shooting touch is not his greatest asset, but he is certainly someone who can play with skills away from the basket. Telep believes that his low post game still has a lot of upside as well, as he can refine some go-to moves to beat his defender one-on-one.
Two of his better games against "name" big man opponents came at the Slam Dunk to the Beach tournament in Delaware during the holidays. Against Tello Palacios of Our Savior New American H.S. in New York, Nwankwo hit for 18 points. In the same tournament, Georgetown Prep went up against Archbishop Spaulding big man Will Bowers, who Stanford fans remember well from last year's recruiting wars. Bowers is a legit big-body center and a tough defensive presence on the boards, but Nwankwo scored 12 points and pulled down 13 boards to more than hold his own. As a team, Georgetown Prep had its biggest wins of the year against Paul VI (Rob Little's high school) and The Potomac Schools. Nwankwo scored 11 points and ripped down 14 boards in the Potomac game, though he did not match up against fellow junior Peter Prowitt, who is also a Stanford recruit in this class.
Nwankwo is unlike some other Stanford post recruits in that he isn't the biggest body on his team, so his offensive numbers and rebounds don't come easily. "I can get point on some putbacks but can still work harder on my offensive rebounding," he opines. "I want to add more muscle and mass to my frame, and get stronger. My goal is to not feel any pain after a hard game banging against my opponent."
Nwankwo will again play with the DC Blue Devils this summer, along with Georgetown Prep teammate seven-foot center Roy Hibbert (Georgetown verbal commit) and Potomac's 6'10" Peter Prowitt. Talk about a talented frontcourt! You can bet that Stanford's coaches will be all over the Blue Devils' games, with a chance to watch two preeminent post targets like Nwankwo and Prowitt. And don't think that the two of them are mutually exclusive recruits. Nwankwo is more of a forward while Prowitt is closer to a natural center; besides all that, Stanford needs three of the best big bodies they can get in this class to bolster the razor-thin frontcourt.
The Cardinal have only recruited and signed two post players in the last three classes to basketball scholarships, with Rob Little in 2001 and Matt Haryasz in 2002. Finding and pulling in a big and athletic talent like Nwankwo is not just an attractive option, but a must for the Stanford coaches. Perhaps that is why Nwankwo says that he receives letters almost every day from Palo Alto, and why he talks more with the Cardinal coaches than any other school. They have come out to see him in practices and games, including one trip by assistant coach Eric Reveno in January the week of the Oregon home games. After the famous comeback win Thursday night at Maples against Oregon State, Reveno took a red-eye flight to D.C. and saw Nwankwo on Friday, then flew back in time for the Saturday blowout win over Oregon.
"They've shown me that I'm really important to them," says Nwankwo of Stanford's recruiting efforts. "I can tell that they really appreciate me. They've told me I'm the key to this class for them."
The other school that has recruited the D.C. forward the hardest is Michigan, and that earnest attention has those two programs at the top of his list. A second group behind the pair of leaders is UConn, then Notre Dame and then Arizona, according to Nwankwo. Miami is getting involved recently, and though Maryland and Georgetown are both hot on his trail, the sought-after recruit says he is leaning toward going away from home. Ohio State is a program that is eagerly trying to get involved as well.
Among his top two, Nwankwo says that the Cardinal have the edge over the Wolverines today. "Stanford is ahead right now," he professes. "I'm just loving Stanford. I love everything with the coaches - they're very nice and make me feel really comfortable. The education is of course top rate. And my parents love Stanford, too."
The Card coaches are loving him, too, and put an admissions application in his hands a week ago, which he is already looking over. He currently maintains a 3.7 GPA, and says the current semester has him earning all A's and one B in history, which is the one course he is battling today. Nwankwo took the SAT in December, but did so right in the middle of a travel tournament he was playing with his high school, and that didn't go well. "I didn't get the score I should, and I have a tutor now to focus on getting a better score. I'm aiming for something between an 1100 to 1300, or higher," he states. The next date he will take the standardized test is April, though he figures he'll complete his application by the end of March.
The relationship between Stanford and Nwankwo is sky high right now, and so it might not surprise you that the junior recruit is coming out to visit The Farm this weekend. This is the first official visit for Nwankwo, and he will be the first official visitor in the junior class to come to Stanford this year. He is arriving late Thursday night, but his visit on campus will start Friday morning and run the next 48 hours, with his departure coming Sunday morning. This weekend of course includes the big game against Arizona at Maples Pavilion, which Nwankwo will attend. "I'm definitely excited," he says of the impending trip. "This will be my first time on the West Coast, and I've heard so much about how nice it is, and the weather." All signs point to Rob Little as his host, as the Stanford sophomore comes from Nwankwo's backyard and will have an important perspective on coming out to Stanford and the West Coast.
Nwankwo specifically says he is eager to talk with Little, particularly on questions about being away from home. If there is one lingering issue in the recruit's mind, it is the great distance. "I want to find out how often you can come home," Nwankwo says. "My parents are a little worried they might never see me." Little echoed those same sentiments when he was recruited three years ago by the Cardinal, and undoubtedly will have a heart-to-heart with Nwankwo about the pros and cons of the four-year decision to come to California.
Georgetown Prep and Nwankwo just concluded the season this past Sunday, winning out the Sleepy Thompson tournament in Virginia. Though disappointed that they could not win their conference, a very fine 20-6 record stands, and attention now turns to the "other" season. In addition to traveling with the DC Blue Devils on the AAU circuit, look for Nwankwo at some individual camps as one of the nation's top rising seniors. He will be at the Nike Camp in Indianapolis once again, and is thinking about the Five-Star Camp. Spring and summer team events will include the Boo Williams and much of the Nike circuit.