July 05, 2010
From Providence's God Shammgod to Seattle's Austen Powers to Alabama State's Chief Kickingstallionsims, college basketball has featured dozens of players with memorable names.
By this time next year, we could have another name to add to the list.
Meet God's Gift Achiuwa, a 6-foot-9 forward at Erie Community College who has already caught the attention of some high-profile Division I programs because of both his stellar play and unusual name. The Nigeria native's father is a minister, so the first name he chose for his son is a reflection of the family's devout religious beliefs.
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"His name is the first thing that anyone asks about when they meet him," Erie coach Alex Nwora said by phone. "Everyone thought it was a nickname or something, but that's his real name. Fortunately, he's a religious kid, so he likes it."
In the nine months since Nwora discovered Achiuwa at an annual camp the coach runs in Nigeria and brought him back to Erie, the bruising power forward has tried to make sure he's known for more than just his name. He averaged 13.1 points, 13.5 rebounds and two blocks per game as a freshman, earning third-team all-American honors and helping lead Erie to a 27-2 record.
Achiuwa has also excelled in the classroom at Erie, earning a 4.0 GPA in the fall semester and a 3.8 in the spring. Kansas recently called about him, according to Nwora, and Pittsburgh, St. John's and Tennessee are among other programs that have shown an interest.
"He came in a little bit on the raw side, but playing a lot has helped him," Nwora said. "He's come a long way from when we ended the season and he hasn't stopped yet. He's still training like we begin the season tomorrow. I think all around he needs more polish, but he can play with the best of them."
Nwora said Achiuwa doesn't have a nickname, though his teammates sometimes call him "Gift" for short.
For a kid as gifted as Achiuwa on the court and in the classroom, it's a more fitting name than you'd think.