Another one of the big men that made Class A state Federation champion Park boys basketball a tower of power last season is heading to prep school.
However, Julian Eziukwu’s departure from the program was likely because he no longer meets scholastic age eligibility requirements.
Eziukwu, 19, is transferring to prep powerhouse Lee Academy in Maine. In moving to the prep school, the 6-foot-9 power forward/center can continue his development in hopes of securing a Division I offer.
He follows John Orogun, a 6-11 rising junior who is transferring to New Jersey powerhouse St. Benedict's Prep. He has offers from Oklahoma, UMass, Robert Morris, Buffalo, Bryant and Stony Brook, among others.
Eziukwu and Park coach Rich Jacob confirmed the move to The News.
Last season, Eziukwu averaged 5.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.6 steals and 1.2 assists per game. He was part of a formidable front line for the Pioneers in which they had three players – he, Orogun and Quentin Nnagbo, who stood 6-8 or taller. They usually had two in the lineup at the same time – a tactic that overwhelmed most of their foes during a 25-5 campaign.
Though classified as a junior last year, Eziukwu turned 19 in June. Those playing athletics for the coming season must not turn 19 before July 1. That meant he would not have been eligible to play at Park anyway.
"Under normal circumstances I would stay at the Park School to complete my senior year of high school, but unfortunately I turned 19 in June," Eziukwu said in a statement sent to The News.
"We selected Lee Academy Prep in Lee, Maine, because they play basketball at a elite level in the NEPSAC," he said, referring to the highly regarded New England Preparatory School Athletic Council. "And the added incentive of continuing to play with one of my Park teammates (Brandon Smith) from this past season is exciting to me.
"I have really enjoyed my time at the Park School and made many wonderful friends there as well as from various high schools in the area. Winning the Federation with my brothers at Park was especially memorable this season. ... I especially want to thank my coaches at the Park School, Coach Jacob and Bateson, for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to grow as a man."
“We were going to do all we can for our students to go to the next level,” Jacob said. “Again, our season success and Julian’s hard work, hustle and improvement helped him attract a situation that sounds like it will work out well for him.”
While losing Eziukwu was expected, losing Orogun was a surprise. The 6-foot, 8-inch Nnagbo is expected back with the Pioneers along with All-Western first-team selection Noah Hutchins.
“We have to move forward with who we have,” Jacob said. “When players make the choice to transfer you just hope it’s what’s best for them and their families.”