Nigerian pro basketball Festus Ezeli, former player for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors (2012-2016), is currently a free agent. Born in Nigeria to academically-minded parents, Ezeli concentrated hard on his studies, graduating high school at the tender age of 14 years.
He aspired to be a physician and in 2004 was sent to live in Yuba City California with his pediatrician-uncle. It was his uncle who encouraged Ezeli to take up basketball, mainly because of the youth’s height (6’ 8” at age 14 – Ezeli would grow up to reach 6’ 11”).
Initially, Ezeli struggled with learning basketball due to his lack of experience in organized sports. He persevered, however, beginning with a low-level AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) team and working his way up to a high-level competition on the AAU circuit in 2007 where he averaged 10 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks per game. It was after this, in July 2007, that Ezeli was invited to the Reebok All-American Camp.
During his early years in America, Ezeli enrolled at Yuba Community College part-time at the age of 16. By studying only part-time he was able to make time to practice and play on the AAU team.
After his debut on the AAU circuit’s high-level competition, Ezeli was sought after by many schools for recruitment. He narrowed his list down to University of Connecticut68, Boston College72, Harvard84, and Vanderbilt81. Though his parents strongly preferred Harvard, Ezeli was convinced that Vanderbilt University81 was his best option based on its solid academic reputation and the basketball program’s recent experience with international players. Though he began pursuing a degree in biology, he eventually changed his major to economics to stay focused on his basketball career.
School: Vanderbilt University81