Oakland, CA – Nigeria born Ifeanyi Festus Ezeli and his team the Golden State Warriors of Oakland, California are headed to the National Basketball Association Finals after beating the Houston Rockets 104-90 in Game 5 of 7 games series. Warriors won 4 out of 5 games played. The Warriors will take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
Center Festus Ezeli, who played 28 minutes out of 48 minutes of the game and put up 12 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks.
About Ifeanyi Festus Ezeli
Ifeanyi Festus Ezeli-Ndulue (born October 21, 1989) is a Nigerian professional basketball player who currently plays for the Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was selected by the Golden State Warriors as the 30th pick in the 1st round of the 2012 NBA draft.
Life in Nigeria
One of five children, Ezeli remembered in a 2011 interview with Andy Katz of ESPN.com, “My parents told me I was an unusual child. My first name is Ifeanyi, and that means ‘nothing is impossible with God’. That sets the tone for my journey while I’m alive.” He concentrated on academics, graduating from high school while still age 14, and aspiring to become a physician. To further his career goals, his parents sent him in 2004 to live with his uncle, a pediatrician in Yuba City, California.
Life in America
Shortly after Ezeli arrived in Yuba City, his uncle encouraged him to take up what seemed to be the most appropriate sport for a 6’8″ (2.03 m) teenager—basketball. This proved much more difficult for him than academics; although he had played soccer as a child, he had never played any organized sports. He took a year of classes at Jesuit High School in Sacramento, but did not play basketball; different sources report that he was either ineligible to play because he had graduated from high school in Nigeria or cut during tryouts. The start of his organized basketball career, with a low-level AAU team, was especially inauspicious; his first points were scored in his own team’s basket. Recalling that incident, he said, “Everybody was running up the court, and I was just running with them. It’s kind of surreal. Sometimes I think about it now and I’m like, Damn. How did I get here?”
Also in the Katz interview, Ezeli remarked on his struggles to learn the game:
“I didn’t know what I was doing. Imagine someone who is 14 or 15 years old, and you’re teaching them as if they’re a 6-year-old. It was tough. Everyone was getting frustrated with me. I was getting frustrated with it. I tried playing in 2005. I stopped. I tried again in 2006. And when I had my first dunk in a summer league game in Las Vegas in 2006, that’s when I was so excited. It was so exhilarating that I started to like it.”
At age 16, Ezeli joined a second AAU team and also enrolled part-time at Yuba Community College. By not attending full-time, he retained a full four years of college eligibility and was still able to practice with the team; he also served as the team’s videographer. Although still learning the most basic of basketball skills, he made his high-level competitive debut on the AAU circuit in the summer of 2007. By then, he had reached 6’11” (2.11 m), and averaged 10 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game, earning an invitation to the Reebok All-American Camp in July 2007.