Though he’s had a couple of rocky games recently, the freshman will be critical to a marquee matchup Saturday against No. Hoping to avoid the dangers of tackle football, Apham, whose younger brother played hoops at the University of Florida in the 1990s, prodded his son toward basketball. Scored 20 points against Northern Arizona in his first college game (Nov. 6), the first Arizona freshman with a 20-point debut since 2002. He’s got the ability to shoot the 3. We’re really working on him getting comfortable from that NBA 3-point line, and it’s been fun to watch. After a massive shakeup, the wide-open NBA has something for everyone. “I don’t say good morning to my kids. Much like he does everything else in life, Nnaji has prepared for this moment. “It’s great that I’m in this position right now, but it wasn’t anything that I was coming out and saying I’m going to be this elite scorer and all that stuff,” Nnaji recently told the Pac-12 Network. On top of taking a jab at Kevin Durant, the former New Jersey Nets forward also shared his thought on the franchise’s approach to their new coaching staff, which is headlined by Steve Nash and features both Jacque Vaughn and Mike D’Antoni. Major offseason changes cast uncertainty across the league. “I’ve loved music ever since first grade, I think that’s when I started playing piano,” Zeke said. The Oklahoma City Thunder are promoting assistant Mark Daigneault to become the franchise’s next head coach. Apham, a soccer player as a child in Nigeria and near-Olympic-level decathlete, noticed special athleticism and skill in his son at a young age. “We were replacing his soccer cleats like every six months,” Apham says. 2019-20 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year (coaches) and Newcomer of the Year (AP). Angelina Jordan rehearsal playing piano Feeling Good and see what happens at the end - … There’s a different culture [for Nigerians] in raising kids. His sister is also a freshman prospect. He can bust zones from the free-throw line as a dual-threat playmaker, and force turnovers inside and outside defensively. Little wonder he had a few jitters. NBA.com is part of Warner Media, LLC’s Turner Sports & Entertainment Digital Network, Kentucky's Tyrese Maxey showing he can do it all, The bond between players from Chicago runs deep, Myers Leonard stands for anthem, expresses support for BLM, Making his point: The rapid rise of Tyrese Haliburton, It's done: The NBA comes back on Dec. 22, a 72-game season, NBA, NBPA agree on 2020-21 season start and adjustments to CBA, 23 early-entry candidates withdraw from 2020 NBA Draft, Bucks' Sterling Brown agrees to $750K settlement over arrest, Joerger, Cassell join Sixers' coaching staff. They loom over recruiting too. There’s something you might not know about Zeke and his family. But he’s starting to earn notice going to classes and to restaurants around Tucson. “I think it’s laughable, but I’m old school; I want my coach to tell me what he wants me to do. Arizona Wildcats forward Zeke Nnaji (No. So Janel called Ms. Leander. Only one recruiting analyst rated him a five-star prospect. “My daughters can all sing. While Janel and Apham Nnaji were not disinclined to challenge their children, they were disinclined to overwhelm them. 22) dunks over Long Beach State 49ers forward Romelle Mansel (No. “I can go to business school right away because my goal is to study finance, so I just think overall they’re just a great program and I love the coaching staff,” he said. Zeke is allergic to taking credit. He chuckles when praised. It’s a stunning start for a freshman who was not at the top of his high school class, rated a mere four out of five stars. I had a band when I was in college, my mother-in-law had a group that she sang in a capella,” Apham said. For decades, sought-after college basketball recruits have avoided the Ivy League. 6 Gonzaga (Dec. 14). Want every headline right at your fingertips? Zeke Nnaji Draft Notes A mobile big who runs the floor well, has good hands and a nice scoring touch. For the entire preseason fall league, Nnaji effectively didn’t take a shot, setting the table for teammates and developing his skills as a playmaker. He deflects to teammates and coaches when asked about his accomplishments. Though Nnaji was disappointed he didn’t play in the McDonald’s All-Star game and was cut last summer from the USA Basketball U19 team tryouts, in retrospect he views both snubs as a blessing. He is a better offensive rebounder than a defensive one and lacks a degree of length to be especially impactful as a rim protector but had some very positive moments as a freshman. “The same kind of preparation and time I spent for the national anthem, I bring that dedication and focus every day to basketball. 15 Wildcats — who is pouring in 16.6 points per game, notching among the nation’s leaders in field goal percentage and rocketing onto the NBA radar — has such a selfless side, but you can trace it back to his Nigerian-American family’s dinner table. It blows my mind,” said Janel Nnaji, Zeke’s mom. “Even when I’m training kids. Zeke Nnaji. My favorite genre is ragtime. Posted 16 points and a career-high 17 rebounds vs. No. ©2020 The Athletic Media Company. His dad told me that before he ever got here. “We started with soccer to help his footwork but I said, ‘If you’re gonna play this game, I’m gonna support you, but you’re not going to waste my time, so you better give 110 percent,'” said Apham Nnaji, Zeke’s dad. He plays so effortlessly. Arizona Wildcats 1,268 views. Arizona freshman forward Zeke Nnaji is a man of many talents. Zeke has it. Key player: Piano man Zeke Nnaji’s emergence is music to Arizona’s ears. Focusing on basketball rather than hype is his preference. What could have stopped basketball’s most anticipated rematch?. Ascending up Draft boards, Wildcats combo guard has the skills that translate well to the NBA, With basketball serving as the foundation, today's wave of Chicago players is a tight-knit community. And when the regular season ended, it was Nnaji, not any of those five McDonald’s All-Americans, who earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors. He encouraged Zeke — who now stands 6-foot-11 — to play on the perimeter and develop a broad skill set. That lack of flash perhaps explains how Nnaji went somewhat overlooked by the recruiting services. Born to a musically inclined family that includes a father from Nigeria and a mother from Minnesota, Nnaji says walking across campus to play piano gives him a great start to the day. He was locked in on the song, and it was incredible. They greet me. By the third day, I was looking over at his dad and I got big eyes. He got better and better at handling them. Now it’s just about repetition.”. Philadelphia announced the coaches who will join Doc Rivers this upcoming season. You’re not really not thinking about anything; you’re just watching yourself play. Finishing the year ranked among the more efficient scorers in the Pac-12, Nnaji played primary off the ball for the Wildcats serving as a reliable, active catch and finish target and productive offensive rebounder. It implied this child would decipher all of these symbols and translate them into melodies and then play them, and under the circumstances, this seemed a bit ambitious. Top Rumors, Coaching, Mark Daigneault, Oklahoma City Thunder, Coaching, Mark Daigneault, Sam Presti, Uncategorized, Coaching, Mark Daigneault, Sam Presti, Oklahoma City Thunder, Coaching, Mark Daigneault, Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dennis Schroeder, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Jarrett Culver, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Coaching, Brian Scalabrine, Steve Nash, Brooklyn Nets, Coaching, Lloyd Pierce, Nate McMillan, Uncategorized, Coaching, Lloyd Pierce, Nate McMillan, Atlanta Hawks. Ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in scoring (16.1 ppg), fifth in rebounding (8.6 rpg) and fourth in field goal percentage (57.0). Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. “I didn’t want him stuck in the middle,” Apham says. “I see it as more of a hobby,” Nnaji says. Because he’s rocketing onto the league's radar. By Brian Hamilton Jan 7, 2020 3 . A possible deal could include Jarrett Culver and #17, several teams are talking trades with Atlanta for #6. Chris Dortch feature: Arizona's freshman Zeke Nnaji learned hoops lessons from music Standing 6-foot-11.5 with an average wingspan and a rapidly improving frame, Nnaji is a … A big guy who can shoot is a rare commodity. He has played the piano since first grade. By clicking "Submit", you agree to the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy. The threat of NCAA sanctions hangs over the program. Sign up to receive NBA emails! 2:47. Now, as he’s getting ready to play, Nnaji is trying to chase away any self doubt flickering through his brain. Distractions were limited: Zeke didn’t get a cellphone until he was in high school, and after basketball practice had to shovel snow and finish his homework before earning any free time. Quick and athletic with good body control and ability to play above the rim. Somehow, Nnaji had taken the national anthem from Baltimore, where Francis Scott Key wrote it in 1814, down to New Orleans, where pianist Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, better known as Jelly Roll Morton, became a legend playing his rousing brand of jazz and ragtime. Something I have heard is that the Hawks are ok with moving back and potentially clearing a bit more salary cap space. Nnaji played baseball and soccer before starting basketball due to his height. 2019-20 All-Pac-12 First Team and All-Freshman Team choice. That Nnaji’s musical hero and primary influence began performing in 1900 and died in 1941 is significant and bears further examination, because it reveals much about the young man’s intelligence, character, work ethic and, well, good taste. So when Zeke first got here, we talked a lot about playing through mistakes, and assuring him he wasn’t always going to be perfect, and that that was OK.”. Free agency signings to start Nov. 22, followed by a 72-game season beginning Dec. 22. Kentucky coach John Calipari has a knack for producing star point guards. “I’m just happy it’s coming to me.”. So he tried soccer, where he learned a lesson. Zeke Nnaji is an agile big man with a strong motor who emerged as one of the bigger breakout stars in the freshman class in his single season at Arizona. He is going to work at it,” said Ken Novak, Hopkins basketball coach. 2019-20 All-District selection by the USBWA and NABC. And the Nnaji pipeline may well continue: Arizona’s women’s basketball program recently offered a scholarship to Zeke’s sister Maya, a top recruit.