By Brendan Hall
Akosa Maduegbunam‘s commitment to Penn State yesterday, confirmed this afternoon by ESPNBoston.com, was a function of the academic and social amenities offered in Happy Valley. But more than anything, it was the product of a special bond the former Charlestown swingman forged with new Nittany Lions head coach Pat Chambers, dating back to when he first offered Maduegbunam as the head man at Boston University.
“I would say Coach Chambers is probably one of the best recruiters ever,” Maduegbunam said this afternoon by phone. “He just makes you feel really welcome, really wanted. I tried to evaluate coaches as to where they’ll be down the road.
“Somewhere along the line of life, I’ll stop playing basketball, and Coach Chambers is a guy who would be there at my wedding. He is more than just a college coach. It’s more than just basketball for him, it’s about character and personality. He found that in me, and I found that in him.”
The 6-foot-4 Maduegbunam was also considering offers from Temple, Drexel, New Hampshire and Iona at the time of his commitment, while Northeastern and St. Bonaventure had also expressed interest.
Maduegbunam, who transferred into Charlestown from Cushing Academy as a sophomore, will finish his high school career at Winchendon School starting in the fall. In his two seasons with the Townies, he averaged 20.5 points, seven rebounds, three assists and was a two-time All-City selection. This past winter, he was named to ESPNBoston’s inaugural MIAA All-State Team after averaging 22 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals, and leading the Townies to their first Boston City League title since 2006.
With a long, lean frame that allows him accelerate quickly when defending the perimeter, and finish at the rim, Maduegbunam could be a prospect that flies under the radar as he continues to develop his ballhandling skills. His three-point range and finishes in transition will likely fit well with Chambers, who prefers an uptempo style and isn’t afraid to give the green-light from deep.
Earlier this month, Maduegbunam went toe-to-toe with New Hampton’s Jared Terrell at the Reebok Headliner tryout in Dorchester, and was named one of the finalists selected to next month’s Breakout Challenge in Philadelphia. His ceiling is considered high, and he could see his stock rise this summer running with the Expressions AAU club.
So at the questions of his ability to hang in the Big Ten, Maduegbunam is calmly dismissive.
“It’s not a thing of whether I’m ready or not, it’s a level I was born to play at,” Maduegbunam said. “The schools I was getting offers from was because of connections. I never got to display myself at the national level, the AAU circuit; I could have been in the likes of any high-major school. It just so happens that I got lucky, but I like to say that that’s where preparation and opportunity meet, and my number’s been called to Penn State.”
Asked to describe his emotions after making the phone call to Chambers, Maduegbunam struggled to put the right thoughts into words.
“It didn’t really hit me until I guess today, when I started telling people over the phone where I was going,” Maduegbunam said. “I’d say my emotions were…late? I don’t know, I’m still going through it, it’s so surreal.”
Speaking on his later father Ofili Maduegbunam, who passed away a decade ago, Akosa continued, “Some people that were with me from the beginning and saw I had a vision with this basketball dream, they aren’t with me today. I find that kinda heart-aching, but these are the people I do it for. Of course you’re gonna have a lot of doubters, but that’s not what I play for. I play for the love of the game.”