It is not a surprise that 6'9" Nnanna Njoku '21, a power forward on Sanford's boys' basketball team, garnered lots of attention from college coaches. He has been on Delaware’s All-State 1st Team for the past two years and was the only junior to receive that honor this year. Additionally, Nnanna has been listed as one of the top 100 basketball players in the country, and he was invited to be on the USA Basketball Junior National team. Nnanna recently ended speculation about his college career when he gave Villanova University a verbal commitment to play Division 1 basketball for them in the Big East Conference.
Villanova's head basketball coach, Jay Wright, and his staff began recruiting Nnanna during his sophomore year. He was not the only coach to show interest in Nnanna, but Wright's philosophy, much like Sanford’s Stan Waterman's, emphasizes the importance of becoming a great young man before becoming a great basketball player. Nnanna explained: "I went on my campus visits, and when I saw the Villanova campus and the environment at the games, I just knew it was the perfect place for me. More importantly, Coach Wright is a very down to earth person. He is a great coach, for sure, but he is also an honest man and someone I want to be taught by during my four years of college."
Nnanna began his basketball journey as a fifth grader in middle school, and he has been in love with the sport ever since. He attended and played for Assumption BVM in West Grove, Pennsylvania, St. Edmonds Academy in Wilmington, and then Sanford. He is a member of a Nike-sponsored AAU team, Team Final, which is based out of Philadelphia. Nnanna remains grateful for the impact his first AAU coach, Dylan Miller, had on his game. He elaborated: "Coach Miller introduced me to just how hard it is to get really good at the game of basketball. He taught me to stay mentally strong and to fight through adversity, and that is why I am where I am in the game today.
"I have also had the good fortune to work with another outstanding coach, and that is Coach Waterman. Like Coach Miller, Coach Waterman has always been there for me, and not just when it comes to basketball. He is there for me in any aspect of my life."
Waterman says of his player: "Nnanna has developed into a dominant player at the high school level, and I expect he will continue to develop under the guidance of the Villanova coaching staff. I love everything about this young man, as a player and as a person."
Nnanna, an honor student at Sanford, is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. When he takes a break from basketball, Nnanna enjoys cooking, watching movies, spending time with friends, and playing lacrosse. But basketball is his passion.
Nnanna concluded by saying: "Basketball has allowed me to make so many new friends and meet so many new people who have ultimately taught me most of what I know. I think what makes me different from other athletes is that I have a genuine interest to become better on AND OFF of the court. Basketball will not last forever, and I know it is just a part of me becoming a better man at the end of the day. Without the game, I feel like I would have been lost. I have a lot to thank the game of basketball for in my life."
When Nnanna dons the navy and white colors of the Villanova Wildcats, he will add his name to other local talents who have also selected Villanova, including Sanford alum and basketball standout Will Sheridan '03. Additionally, he will have the opportunity to play against his former teammate Jyare Davis '20, who will be playing for Big East rival Providence. "I am already looking forward to those twice a year match-ups," quipped Nnanna. "Those games will definitely be a lot of fun."
Until then, Nnanna is looking forward to his senior year at Sanford, where he will continue to share his talents with his fellow Warriors.