November 8, 2012 10:08:57 AM
Chinwe Okorie plans to come to Starkville to work.
That is great news for Vic Schaefer and the Mississippi State University women's basketball program. The next assignment Okorie is expected to complete for MSU will come Wednesday when she signs a National Letter of Intent to join the team for the 2013-14 season.
"I loved (MSU), and I fell in love with it (when she visited the school last month), Okorie said Wednesday. "I met coach Schaefer and coach Harris, and the coaches were so homey that they felt like family to me in the U.S. Then I met the team and the girls were awesome."
Late last month, Okorie, a 6-foot-5 center from Nigeria, gave a verbal commitment to MSU. Okorie, a post-graduate student at Stoneleigh-Burnham Prep School in Greenfield, Mass., figures to join Breanna Richardson, a 6-2 forward from the state of Georgia, Ketara Chapel, a 6-1 forward from Texas, Dominique Dillingham, a 5-8 guard from Texas, and Kiandria Patterson, a 5-9 guard from Columbus High, in the next class.
Richardson (No. 81) and Chapel (No. 170) are ranked in the top 300 players in the Class of 2013, according to Dan Olson's Collegiate Girls Basketball Report, a national scouting service.
Last week, Patterson was named to The Clarion-Ledger's Dandy Dozen team, which recognizes the state's top players.
Okorie said she also "connected" with Dillingham and Richardson on her recruiting visit. She feels she will fit right into Schaefer's system because she is determined to improve as a basketball player and to realize her goals.
"I am sure I am going to have a really, really good basketball career," Okorie said. "I know coach Vic Schaefer and his staff mean business. When I see him coach the girls, it is like business time and off the court it is family time. Those are people I want to work with."
Okorie said she plans to study business management at MSU. Her goal is to build a skill set she started when she was 16 years old. For now, she will continue to work with the Stoneleigh-Burnham volleyball team and to prepare for the start of the school's basketball season.
Okorie said she decided to start playing basketball after she saw a women's basketball player with Nigeria's National team play the sport on television. She had never played the sport until then and has made significant improvement from her first steps on the court.
"I was so bad in it," Okorie said. "It was so fun, but I couldn't jump and I couldn't make a layup. I couldn't even run."
Okorie said that slow start didn't prevent her from continuing to play basketball.
"Whatever I set my mind to I always try to accomplish it," said Okorie, who arrived at Stoneleigh-Burnham last spring and played with the school's lacrosse team. "But I didn't know it would lead me to the United States. I just kept playing and listened to people who offered me corrections."
Okorie is from a village in a suburb of Lagos, which is in Western Africa. It borders the Gulf of Guinea and is between Benin on the west and Cameroon on the east. She said a coach in a Nigerian equivalent to the Amateur Athletic Union circuit in the United States saw her play basketball and told her, "I am going to get you a scholarship to play basketball in America." She said it was a "big deal" for her to get the opportunity and that she was excited about the chance to come to the United States.
Even though she has been playing basketball only for a few years, Okorie's goal is to play professional basketball. She said she is surprised "a million, zillion times" that she will get an opportunity to play basketball at a Division I school in the U.S, and that she is eager to take the next step in her journey.
"Pushing hard, that's what it is all about," Okorie said. "I think I really stepped up before I got here. It has been tough for me, too.
"I hope to keep working hard, being humble, listening to advice from people, especially my coaches and players. I want to be a good team member, and I will continue to pray to God because without Him I can do nothing."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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