College Basketball Nation: God's Gift Achiuwa

Terrence Jones goes back to Washington

May, 20, 2011
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Kentucky star forward Terrence Jones was recently spotted working out at Washington. The image of him training closer to home at Hec Edmundson Pavilion wouldn't be the least bit jolting had it not been for Jones' awkward decommitment from the Huskies a year ago.

Jones went as far as to hold a news conference to put on a Washington baseball cap before reconsidering his options and ultimately heading to Lexington instead. That he was recently spotted wearing blue on a purple court brings up the question: What if?

What if Jones had stuck to his initial commitment? Would Washington have lived up to its expectations and won the Pac-10 title rather than Arizona? Would a young Kentucky team have still been able to reach the Final Four?

Jones' decommitment has lingering ramifications as well. With him back at Kentucky for a second year, the Wildcats will enter the season as one of the nation's best teams. Washington, meanwhile, only has two scholarship players standing at least 6-foot-8 and is still in search of another big man after recently missing out on junior college transfer God's Gift Achiuwa.

So seeing Jones at Washington is at least somewhat of a sight to behold. The last time he was campus was interesting, too. It was after he had opened up his options and came on the eve of making his final choice.

Here was Washington guard Isaiah Thomas describing that visit to Sports Illustrated last year.
"It was the weirdest thing I've ever seen in recruiting," Thomas said, "because everything [Jones] did made it seem like he was coming to Washington.

"I wouldn't have anything to do with a school if I wasn't going there, but [Jones], on the day before he signed with Kentucky, came up to campus for the whole day. He surprised us and the coaches by showing up with his teammate who might walk on at Washington. [Jones] was chilling with us, he worked out, he hooped, he stayed the night ... and I didn't really ask him about the situation, because I know how recruiting is -- everybody asks you questions about it -- but then he picked the Wildcats, and we were like, damn."

Video: A conversation with God's Gift

May, 2, 2011
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God's Gift Achiuwa, a St. John's signee, talks about his background, the story behind his name, his adjustment to America and why he picked the Red Storm.

God's Gift Achiuwa signs with St. John's

April, 28, 2011
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St. John's coach Steve Lavin doesn't call God's Gift Achiuwa, his newly signed junior college transfer, God. He calls him Gift, which is exactly what he is to the Red Storm's recruiting class.

ESPNU had ranked St. John's as having the third-best class in the nation, and that was before Achiuwa made his commitment. Adding the 6-foot-9 JC All-American from Nigeria and an instant member of college basketball's all-name team certainly makes the class even better.

"Gift is a talented frontline player who possesses tremendous size, strength, speed and skill," Lavin said in a statement. "He is an ideal fit for our baseline-to-baseline attacking style of play. The maturity Gift gained from two years of junior college basketball with a combined 55-6 record will make him a nice complement to what will be the youngest team in the country next season."

Lavin has signed a class of nine players to replace a senior-laden team that made a surprising run to the NCAA tournament this past season.

Achiuwa played at Erie Community College and chose to stay in New York rather than head to Washington or Cincinnati. The son of a minister, Achiuwa was impressed by Lavin and the rest of the coaching staff.

"They came into the St. John's program and turned things around in less than a year," Achiuwa said in a statement. "I think that's a good indication that the program is on its way back. I like the city and have been to New York a number of times; it is a great place to play and live. Madison Square Garden is the biggest stage in the world and it is a great opportunity to have The Garden as my home court."
No, your monotheistic deity of choice isn't about to bless a particular school. I just like to explore the punny possibilities presented by one of the best college hoops all-name team prospects of this or any other season: God's Gift Achiuwa.

In case you hadn't heard -- and God Shammgod has, so what's your excuse? -- God's Gift Achiuwa is the name of a current college hoops recruit, a 6-foot-9 forward from Erie Community College in Buffalo, N.Y. He was unearthed last year when his ability got him noticed by a handful of Division I programs, including St. John's. The name, in case you're wondering, was the selection of Achiuwa's father, a Nigerian minister who ... well, the name pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

Achiuwa has garnered increased attention as a junior college prospect since we last caught up with him, and it appears he's narrowed his college choices to three schools: Washington, St. John's and Cincinnati. According to his current coach, Erie's Alex Nwora, Achiuwa doesn't seem to be leaning toward any of the three. He is, however, reflecting deeply on the decision, and he plans to make it final this week:
"This is a kid who is a very tough kid to read," Nwora said. "He's just so smart. When we talk he says: 'Coach I like this school. I like this school. I connected with the coaches here. I connected with the coaches here. I liked the players here. I got to take my time. Sleep on this. Pray on this.'

"He's very religious. He's going to talk to his priest to make sure he has his blessing on what he's trying to do. And he told me sometime this week I'll let you know what I'm doing."

Achiuwa might not be Austin Rivers or Michael Gilchrist; his decision isn't going to make his new college team a national title contender. But he does have the ability to be a solid post contributor wherever he goes, and there's a reason he's garnered interest from so many high-major programs in the past 12 months. Plus, whatever coach lands him will be able to plausibly say it has "God's Gift" on his side. Whether you're religious or not, hey, it can't hurt.

God Shammgod learns of God's Gift

July, 26, 2010
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LostLettermen.com got a chance to speak with former Providence guard God Shammgod and asked the member of college basketball's all-name team the question we've all been wondering.

What do you think of rising junior college player God's Gift Achiuwa?

According to Shammgod, who has plans to play in China next season, he's never heard of Achiuwa and has this to say about playing with a name like God Shammgod in college basketball.
For me it was never that bad, I guess because I was good in basketball. At the end of the day, if you do the right stuff (inaudible).

And that was my father’s name, so for me I never knew better.
For some reason, college basketball always yields a ton of players with tremendous names. An'Juan Wilderness. Osiris Eldridge. Bak Bak. Tiny Gallon. Just-in'love Smith. Scientific and Majestic Mapp. Every year, the gents at Storming the Floor compile said names into a preseason all-name team. For 2011, we already have a leader in the clubhouse.

His name -- get ready for it -- is God's Gift Achiuwa.

ZagsBlog's Adam Zagoria scoured the rosters to find God's Gift, a 6-foot-9 Nigerian forward from Erie Community College in Buffalo, N.Y. The big man is being recruited by St. John's, among others, and got his name from his father, a minister in Nigeria seeking to reflect the family's devout religious beliefs in his son's name. Kind of cool, actually.

But he can play? After all, what's in a name, if you don't have game? I'm pretty sure Shakespeare said that. Turns out, he can: Achiuwa averaged 13.1 points, 13.5 rebounds and two blocks per game as a freshman, leading Erie to a 27-2 record and earning himself third-team All-American honors. He's also excelled in the classroom, earning a 4.0 and a 3.8 in his first two semesters at Erie, and leading schools like Kansas, Pittsburgh, Tennessee and St. John's to show an interest.

Is it as good as Just-in'love? Maybe not. But if God's Gift ever takes his game to the Division I ranks, he's a lock for first-team all-name, no matter who else is on the team. Punny headline writers everywhere may now commence salivating.

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