On Tuesday, Kevin Stallings received a verbal commitment from 2017 6-foot-9 inch, 220 pound Swedish power forward Kenechukwu Chukwuka. Chuckwuka attends New Mexico Junior College and will officially join the Panther basketball program in two weeks. He will have three years of eligibility.
Pittsburgh Sports Now contacted Chuckwuka to discuss his verbal commitment… or as the Swedes would say ‘verbal engagemang’.
“I chose Pitt for many reasons. I had a lot of very good and respectable programs recruit me but what stood out with Pitt was what an incredible situation I could step into and how they saw me fitting in with what Coach Stallings and the staff is building,” said Chuckwuka.
“First of all I think they recruited me for the right reasons. Sometime people recruit guys because of the offers they already had, they were the first high major to reach out and I felt that they got a good understanding of what my game was. Coach (Dan) Cage was the main coach recruiting me was never pressing me into doing anything and he always kept it 100% with me. They offered me a situation where I could step into the ACC as a sophomore and play… and play for a legendary coach in Coach Stallings at that! After the visit I was convinced that Pitt was the right move for me. The city was beautiful, I like the staff at Pitt and the direction the young team is heading.”
When Kene (pronounced Ken-aye) was asked how he fit into the Panthers’ current roster, he stated, “I feel like I’m a perfect fit with the team. They told me that we have a very high character group with good guys that work hard. Their offense is very effective when you can have a stretch big that can make decisions from the top of the key and that’s something I can provide. ‘Big guys’ that can stretch the floor and handle the ball have done very well in Coach Stalling’s system before. They really like how hard I play and I feel like I can add another leader who is willing to work and play hard.”
When New Mexico Junior College head basketball coach Brian Lohrey was asked to describe Kene, he replied, “He has worked really hard on his game. He’s about 6-foot-8 to 6-foot-9 inches and he’s around 220 pounds. Kene can really kick and pop. He can really shoot the 3-pointer and he played about 15 minutes a game for us last year. The second half of the season for him was better than the first. He simply needed to get used to the game here in America.”
Kene was asked the same question and his reply was truly humble “I feel uncomfortable bragging about what I feel I do well. I’ll leave that for (the fans) to decide. What I can tell you is that I have got heart. A lot of it,” he said.
Kene was initially recruited and offered scholarships from lower major programs Utah Valley, Middle Tennessee, Iona, Albany, Boston College and Canisius. Higher profile programs were monitoring his academic situation to assure he was qualified for 2017. Kene received news that he was academically eligible and a number of mid to upper majors made their move.
“I can’t remember, but a lot of teams were interested in me for either this year (2017) or next (2018),” he said. “Some of the schools included Nebraska, Arkansas, Utah, Iowa State, DePaul, TCU, Boston and Middle Tennessee. All I know is that there was a lot of very good programs (pursing me) but I’m happy with my decision to go to Pittsburgh and I can’t wait to get to work and upgrade this bag!”
Kene is the 9th player to join Pitt’s 2017 recruiting class. He’s the 4th player over 6-foot-7 inches tall.
Harry G. Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru