Recognizing Talent Early

First 2023 WVU Basketball Commitment

Recognizing Talent Early

Have you ever gone to a game and got your first glimpse of a freshman who wowed you with his talent and skill at such a young age?  While living in Florida nearly 30 years ago I can remember watching one such football player who dominated the game against upperclassmen.  As I watched him play, I recall wishing he would play for West Virginia.

I moved away and a few years later I was watching a WVU game and there he was, Alvin Swoope, playing for my beloved Mountaineers!  He played alongside another running back you may have heard of, Amos Zereoue.  Unfortunately, Alvin left the team just when he was projected to be the starter, so I never got to see him be “the man” at WVU.  His talent was obvious from an early age, but we don’t always get to see a player reach their full potential.

bob huggins smilingBob Huggins Recognizing Talent Early

Some players are late bloomers and they can go on to have great careers, but when a kid burst on the scene so young, then it’s hard not to get excited about what the future might hold for him.  When a coach the caliber of Bob Huggins sees such a player and offers him early, then it’s easy to start chomping at the bits as we wait for that kid to show up on campus in a few years.

Huggins made such an offer and we got our first commitment for the class of 2023 and his name is James Okonkwo, a 6′,9″ forward from Maidenhead, England who is playing for Beckley IJN Prep.  Okonkwo is a natural athlete who was able to quickly pick up the game and improve so fast that one has to wonder how much potential is hidden inside his still growing frame?  Coach Huggins obviously sees something that prompted him to offer this young man so early.

James Okonkwo

After watching his video, his skill is not to be doubted.  As fans, often all we see are the highlights of players, which makes everyone look great.  The exciting thing about Coach Huggins making an early offer is that he has seen much more tape, and in-person play, that reveals more about the player that most of us never get to see.  For a college coach to make such an early offer, that says that he’s a special player, like a college player that leaves early to enter the NBA draft because he’s going to be a high pick.

His current coach, Justin Dempsey said, “He’s hungry to learn and he will do exactly what you want him to do.”  With his natural ability and willingness to be coached, Huggins just may have mined a gem of a player that might be bringing a good amount of luster to Morgantown when he gets here a few years down the road.  We all should be chomping at the bits to see this young man play basketball in a West Virginia University uniform.