East High basketball player from Nigeria plays his first game - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

East High basketball player from Nigeria plays his first game

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KTIV)- One of Sioux City East's basketball players has come a long way to play here for his senior season.
In fact, he's traveled halfway across the world, away from his family and home, to play the game of basketball.

Eighteen years old, almost seven thousand miles from home, nationally recruited power-forward, six-foot-ten, and powerful in the paint.

Ikenna Okwarabizie traveled to America all the way from Lagos, Nigeria to pursue education and the game of basketball. He says leaving his family behind was difficult...

"You know how moms are, she really didn't want to let me go," Ikenna Okwarabizie said.

... but he says they understood the opportunities it would present.

"The disadvantage there is that they won't get to see me for this long, but on the brighter side of it, I'm going to get to go to school on scholarship and play basketball, do what I love to do," Okwarabizie said.

Iyke, as his American friends call him, left his home in Africa at the age of 17 when a coach from St. Louis, Missouri needed a big, tall player. After a year there, he thought he needed a change.

"I think we were decent last year, but things weren't really working out in terms of, you know, the team. I felt like it was time for me to leave and go somewhere else where I could be comfortable and be in love with the program," Okwarabizie said.

And the program he fell in love with happened to be right here in Sioux City.

"Iyke became friends with a couple of our guys through the AAU summer basketball circuit and so there was a relationship there," Ras Vanderloo, East High's Head Basketball Coach said.

Because of transfer rules, there was some question on whether or not Iyke would be eligible to play any more high school ball at all.

"Any time you have foreign kids, their transcripts are looked at very carefully. Same thing with Iyke. We had to send it in to the state," Vanderloo said.

But in the end, Iyke sat out just the first 90 days of the school year. That may sound like a short time, but he says waiting on the sideline has been hard on him.

"We've played 9 to 10 games already and I haven't been a part of all that stuff, and it kind of hurts me seeing my team lose a couple of games," Okwarabizie said.

His first game with the Black Raiders is on a big stage in the Tyson Events Center at the CNOS Classic.

He, and the team, say they can't wait.

"I'm really excited. I'm itching to play," Okwarabizie said.

"Oh, I'm excited. Yeah I am," Vanderloo said.
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