The University of Pittsburgh basketball program has lacked a true developmental center for quite some time. However, that situation may have been rectified when Kevin Stallings decided to “give Peace a chance.” Last Wednesday, the staff offered senior center Peace Ilegomah (6-foot-10 inches, 235 pounds) a scholarship. Illegomah, 19 years old, plays for the Montverde (FL) Academy post-graduate team where the lengthy native of Nigeria averages 8 points and 13 rebounds a game. Ilegomah, a longtime fan of the Panther program, decided to waste little time. He woke up on Friday and decided to commit to Pitt.
“The (Pitt) coaches were watching my games the past couple of days. They were watching me at a basketball tournament. I didn’t know they were there,” said Ilegomah. “They were in the gym four days ago and Coach (Kevin) Sutton was there. I went up to him and introduced myself. He told me he really liked what I had been doing and told me Pitt was in major need of a big man. A big man that could control the pain, change shots, block shots and get rebounds. He felt that I would be a perfect fit for that spot. I was really excited to hear it. Later that night, Coach (Kevin) Stallings called my guardian and told him he would like to offer me a scholarship. I spoke all night to my guardian about the decision.”
“I’ve been looking at Pitt ever since I started playing basketball. Pitt is a top school in a great conference. When the opportunity came, I couldn’t pass it by. I had to commit.”
Ilegomah is the second Montverde (FL) Academy product to commit to the Panthers, joining guard Marcus Carr. He received interest from St. Louis, DePaul, Missouri, Saint Louis, Seton Hall, Stetson and Louisiana-Monroe. Bethune-Cookman, DePaul and Louisiana-Monroe recently offered him a scholarship.
Ilegomah has been playing organized basketball since 2012. Before that, soccer was his primary sport for a number of years.
“Back home (in Nigeria) I was learning the basics. I came to the United States, August 2012 Transitioning all the way here was tough for me. I had to adjust to the American game where everyone was hungry,” he said. “I played soccer in Nigeria for 14 years. It taught me how to use my feet. My soccer training has actually augmented my game on the court.”
When asked about his strengths on the basketball court, Ilegomah stated, “I believe I bring a lot to Pittsburgh, I bring a defensive figure in the middle of the paint. I can change shots, I can block shots, I have good timing when it comes to contesting shots, I can rebound and run the floor rim to rim very well.”
“Offensively I can shoot the jump shot, I’ve added the three pointer to my game although I don’t plan on being that far out. In the post, I can post-up, make plays for the guards where you catch the ball, wait for the double team comes, you find the open guy for the shot. If the double team doesn’t come, you attack the basketball and try to score. I know I’m going to get fouled and I’m a decent free throw shooter.”
“I have a lot positives to my game, I also have a lot to placed I have to grow. I need to work on my offense, scoring consistently. I’m on offense I’m still raw and willing to learn. Defensively, I’m really good at it.”
If you follow Ilegomah on Twitter and happen to be a Panther fan, you can’t miss a specific tweet from several months ago. It was a picture of him standing next to former Pitt great and Big East Player of the Year Charles Smith. “It’s a big coincidence actually, I met Charles Smith at the beginning of my junior years when was going to play AAU basketball,” he said. “He’s friends with the owner of my AAU Team, Eddie Bright. I was at Eddie Bright’s house and Charles Smith was there with the late Darryl Dawkins. They were both there giving me advice. Both told me to keep working hard and I would get where I wanted to be.”
Ilgomah was the sixth member of the 2017 recruiting class, placing the Panthers’ roster over the scholarship limit. There’s a strong possibility the class will continue to grow. The 2017 class represents the true foundation of the Kevin Stallings era. It’s nearly a reset of the Panthers basketball program.
Ilgomah, a very bright and mature young man, already grasps that’s he’s the part of a new foundation for Pitt. “I think it’s a big responsibility on my shoulders which I’m willing to carry. I want to be part of that foundation that starts the new coming of age for Pitt basketball,” he said.
Ilgomah will more than likely take an official visit to Pitt after the season. He mentioned there’s a possibility of a visit the weekend of the Panther’s next home game against the North Carolina Tar Heels (February 25th).
Ilgomah has a unique first name.
“In Nigeria, my parents were very religious. They like everything about God. They believe in God. It’s kind of unique the way they named everybody in my family, “he said. “I have three brothers. I’m the second son. I happen to be the one named Peace while my old brother’s name is Precious. My other brothers’ names are Destiny and Austin. I asked my mother why she called me Peace. She told me when I was born, I was born peacefully and everything was great. The name kind of stuck with me.”
“I’m a peaceful except on the basketball court. My name may be Peace, but on the basketball court, I go to war.”
Ilegomah joins Phoenix (AZ) Hillcrest Prep wing Shamiel Stevenson, Fairfax (VA) Paul VI guard Aaron Thompson, Tilton (NH) Tilton School PF/C Terrell Brown, Montverde (FL) Montverde Academy guard Marcus Carr and Niceville (FL) Northwest Florida State College wing Jared Wilson-Frame.