Last week after Georgia completed its Dawg Night Camp I told you about several prospects who really made an impression. One of those was Miami area offensive tackle Chidi Okeke-Valentine. At the time I told you how much I like the 6'6, 305 pound rising junior, even though I understand he's only played just a year of organized football.
Now comes word from 247Sports' Ryan Bartow that the big man may be transferring to the Atlanta area under, well, somewhat unusual circumstances. How unusual? I think Bartow, quoting his high school coach, says it best . . .
He’s departed with a group of men from the Ejike Ugboaja Foundation claiming to be his legal guardian," Tunsil first told 247Sports.com on Friday afternoon.
Essentially, members from a Nigerian-American Christian group (you can visit their website here) appear to have removed Chidi from school in south Florida and transplanted him to Atlanta. Ejike Ugboaja is himself a basketball player drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2006, though he never played in any regular season NBA games. Instead he's played professionally in Europeand as part of various Nigerian national teams. At least according to the group's website his U.S. citizenship is pending.
Now there are a couple of cross currents to this story. At first blush it sounds like this poor kid has been kidnapped. But things may be a little more complicated than that. As one commenter on the 247 story notes Chidi was at the same school and in the same travel party to Athens as 5 star prospect Darnell Saloman, who was recently charged with burglary arising from an incident during his recruiting visit to Athens. One could imagine that family/extended family/friends heard the news and decided that Okeke-Valentine needed to get away from bad influences. And while I hesitate to bring it up, those perceived bad influences might include his coach, who like a lot of coaches at talent-rich Florida high schools has a reputation for being open to influence (at least according to the fans of schools his players don't choose).
One imagines that if Okeke-Valentine's Nigerian guardians want to keep a close eye on him and keep him in a Christian environment, the tutelage of Coach Mark Richt right down the road in Athens would be an appealing destination. But then there's no telling where this story may go. It appears that the Ugboaja Foundation has placed Nigerian student athletes all over the country. This one really could get a lot more interesting over the next few months. Until later . . .