Had a chance to speak with God’s Gift Achiuwa on a teleconference call and the Erie (NY) Community College basketball star explained why he chose St. John’s over Washington and Cincinnati.
His decision was based primarily on familiarity. He’s known St. John’s coach Steve Lavin longer than any of the other coaches from the major schools recruiting him.
Achiuwa said he developed a relationship with UW assistant Raphael Chillious through ECC coach Alex Nwora. Chillious made at least two trips across the country to watch Achiuwa play and was able to get the two-time JUCO all-American to make an official visit to Washington.
The 6-foot-8 forward said he liked UW’s campus and referred to coach Lorenzo Romar as “a great man,” but the Huskies were unable to close the deal.
Achiuwa also noted he was impressed with St. John’s because the Red Storm has two assistants (Mike Dunlap and Rico Hines) who coached in the NBA. Dunlap, a former assistant at Arizona and Oregon, is considered a recruiting wizard.
Here’s most of the interview with Achiuwa.
(Why did you pick St. John’s?) “I like the coaching staff. They’re great people. They’ve got a great and experienced coaching staff. They have two guys that coached in the NBA that are part of the coaching staff. Also they bring in great kids. Very athletic kids. I like the way they play. They play a very high-tempo basketball, which is what we do here at Erie. That was what I was looking for. Besides that they play at Madison Square Garden, the biggest stage in the world. It’s a great place to be. St. John’s is a really great school. … That’s a very good fit for me and my family. Those are the main reasons.”
(How did Steve Lavin build a good relationship with you?) “Steve Lavin started recruiting me right from the day he got his job. That was my first day at Erie. I’ve been talking to him for a long time. That really made me feel like he really wanted me.”
(He has a lot of coaches with NBA experience. How important is that to you?) “That was very important to me because my dream is to play in the NBA. Having those guys around me is like a plus for me on getting to where I want to get to in this game of basketball.”
(Which pro player do you resemble or who do you model your game after?) “For me I don’t really model myself after guys in the NBA or anybody. I just try to do something new. I just try to play the way I can. I play hard. There’s no person that I can point to or say this is the way I play my basketball. I can’t model myself to anybody. All I can do is play hard and do what I have to do on the basketball court.”
(Which schools were on your final list?) “Finally I decided to narrow it down to Cincinnati, Washington and St. John’s. Those are the three schools I came and visited. Those are the three schools I narrowed it down to.”
(How close was Washington to being your choice?) “They were very close. I took just three visits and those three schools were very close. … Finally I had to pick a school. I couldn’t go to three schools and I decided to go to St. John’s.”
(If the Huskies had recruited you earlier would they have had a better chance?) “The weren’t here from the beginning, but they came and they showed great interest. I decided to consider them and give them a visit. I liked what I saw. I liked the coach. He’s a great man. … They’ve been coming to my games. So they showed a lot of interest. I really considered them when I made my decision.”
(Were you hesitant about going so far away from New York?) “No. That wasn’t a reason at all. The reason I visited them was because I was interested in their program. Distance wasn’t a problem for me.”