August 23, 2011

Three's the Charm

By: Gabe Taylor

Jordan Akwenuke may be a fresh face in the Broncos' locker room, but with three Oregon 6A State championship titles under his belt, he is anything but new to a winning environment.

Akwenuke acquired an interest in the game of basketball at an early age. When he reached kindergarten, his older brother Josh took it upon himself to assist Akwenuke as he began playing basketball.

"It was very helpful," said Akwenuke, remembering the impact his brother had – and still has – on his basketball career. "He'd always want to go shoot, and he'd be willing to rebound for me so I could get shots up."

Soon enough, a healthy sibling rivalry was born. When middle school came around the bend, Akwenuke was prepared to face his brother one-on-one, even if the result rarely lived up to what he had envisioned.

"When I beat him it was like being a millionaire," said Akwenuke. "It was the best feeling in the world."

Josh, who is nine years older than Akwenuke, earned a spot on the University of Oregon basketball team in 2007 - the year that Aaron Brooks helped guide the team to an appearance in the Elite Eight.

The two brothers still compete, but the tides are slowly changing. While Josh's knees are becoming problematic, Akwenuke is gaining more experience by the day. And the result now favors Akwenuke.

When it came time to settle on a high school, Akwenuke and his parents decided that Jesuit (in Portland, Ore.) had the most to offer, both athletically and academically.

"They thought it would prepare me for college the most," said Akwenuke, who boasted a 3.4 GPA while at Jesuit. "It helped that their basketball track record was really good."

As a sophomore, he joined the varsity team that would then go on to win State that year. And the year after that. And the year after that.

In the 2011 OSAA State Championship game, the Crusaders took down Westview – Josh's alma mater – by a score of 60-46. Akwenuke contributed 14 points and 7 rebounds to help Jesuit record their third straight title.

Akwenuke received the accolade of All-Tournament First Team, alongside his former teammate Kyle Wiltjer, who committed to Kentucky's prestigious basketball program.

"It was definitely a lot different experience when I was a senior, winning it and going out like that," said Akwenuke. "But it was just as fun as the first time we won the championship."

Since his sophomore year in high school, Akwenuke always considered Santa Clara University a probable destination. He remained in contact with the coaching staff throughout his time at Jesuit, and was offered a preferred walk on position to the team upon graduation.

"Everything seemed too good to pass up," said Akwenuke, explaining that Santa Clara's academics and the "upside" of the basketball program were the contributing factors in his final decision.

Akwenuke has already jumped into campus life. With two classes - public speaking and Asian Religious Traditions - in addition to workouts, Akwenuke has taken on the role of a busy college student. Studying in the Leavey School of Business, Akwenuke has his eyes set on traveling the world following his college days. He plans on minoring in international business, and taking advantage of the language courses offered at Santa Clara so that one day he can work for a company that operates around the world, such as Nike or adidas.

But even with all of these thoughts in mind, the transition hasn't been overwhelming.

"There are so many resources around it's pretty much like having your mom or dad," joked Akwenuke.

For Akwenuke, transitioning from being a part-time power forward to a full-time three-guard is what he is focusing on in the offseason. At 6'6, Akwenuke's long athletic frame frustrates opposing players on the defensive end. But he understands that in order to be an effective small forward on the offensive end, strong ball handling skills are a must have.

He will soon add this new and improved skill to his proven ability to win.

"I want to bring that competitive nature, and that will to win," said Akwenuke.

And these attributes are what he knows how to utilize so well.