After winning the 2021 DIAA Boys Basketball Tournament, Sanford senior Nnanna Njoku was named the 2021 Gatorade Delaware Boys Basketball Player of the Year. He was also chosen 2021 Boys Basketball Player of the Year by the Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association and heads the All-State Boys Basketball team.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program recognizes the nation’s most elite high school athletes for not only athletic excellence, but also for high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character.
“Winning this season’s state championship felt AMAZING, but at the same time it was a huge weight off our shoulders,” says Nnanna. “As a team, we knew our goal was to win it all—having had our previous season cancelled due to the pandemic. We knew we owed last year's team for all the hard work they put in.”
“As for winning the Player of the Year, I feel like it was a huge accomplishment that I can only thank God, my family, coaches, and my teammates for. All the support that was shown throughout this season was phenomenal and helped me and this team accomplish our goals.”
As a 6’9” center, Nnanna averaged 20.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game as Sanford went 16–2 to win the school’s tenth state title. He is only the third boys player to be named first-team All-State three times in Delaware.
Coach Stan Waterman reflects, “It has been fun to watch Nnanna and the rest of his (7) senior teammates grow into leaders. Nnanna picked up the torch that was passed on by last year's team. As a leader, he is really vocal at times, but he is most effective when leading by example. He is unselfish, dedicated, committed, and respected by coaches, teammates, and opponents. His leadership skills on the court are an extension of who he is in the classroom and around campus, and the climate and culture of developing leaders at Sanford has helped Nnanna to be comfortable in that role.”
Nnanna looks forward to attending Villanova University next year and playing in the Big East Conference of NCAA Division I. “Like I’ve said many times before, going to a school like Villanova University to continue my education and athletic career is truly a blessing. Villanova can teach me so much more and open many more doors on and off the court. It is an amazing opportunity.”
Then he reflects, “As a senior looking back on 'freshman Nnanna' coming in, all I can do is laugh. If anyone would have told me I’d accomplish the things I have these past four years I wouldn’t believe them. Sanford helped me find myself. Not only on the court but off the court as well. I was fortunate enough to meet incredible people and build what I expect to be lifelong relationships with many in Sanford’s community. I’ve learned so much about how to connect with all kinds of people from different backgrounds of life, and I know it will benefit me in the future.
His advice to underclassmen and teammates? “The most important piece of advice that I could give any player is to not be known only for what you do on the court. A lot of the compliments I receive relate to basketball and I love them, but, there is no better feeling than hearing a parent, teacher, coach, or even a complete stranger say that they were more impressed by how I carry myself off the court. Remember that being respectful, humble, and friendly to those you meet will take you a lot farther than basketball ever will.”